From the Archive: Three Poems by Danez Smith


Image by Nikos Patsiouris. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.


who bow & become the alpha of something, dead
guttural languages reborn with knees; throat-savants
who brave January’s bright fury to bow
in front of a boy who doesn’t look
like his pictures; who’d best any storm
odysseying their life away in the name of thirst.
I too ran into the white blaze of winter,
told her my mouth can do worse.
my ungagable brothers, bobble head frat
what is this gift we master & waste?
what you won’t do, do for love
but don’t love him, love your jaw’s gentle kill.
when the boy breaks into neon
the light is only for you. when the boy
grips your neck like a chalice, you own him.
when he claims you as his bitchboy
you’ll know who hunted who. You know
who eats, who’s mounted on the wall.


& I know, its trivial, to need language –
this tongued burden, to not settle
for I feel some kind of way.
let me skip to the point – I need a word
for how I feel after I’ve washed
out my body & the man doesn’t come.
   If I make my body a lake
   & empty a lake, I expect applause
   for my miracle, my clean as a whistle
   whistling underthroat.
I’m not mad, not disappointed or vengeful
   I’m hungry & all I’ve had today is water
   I’m leaking, but no one will bring a plug
maybe something like betrayal, but drenched
or sorrow, but drained & pointlessly wet.
give me a line
for the feeling
of being stood up
by a man
you had prepared
to call Lord
as if Noah built that boat, but there was no flood
or better, as if the flood came for no reason.


haven’t eaten all day
so I can be the feast
be a thing empty & filled
a vase of stale water
& the next second, wet wreckage
I can make oblivion look like a rose
he tells me to look back at it
& I turn to salt
boi-pussy so good when I jump
it’s suddenly summer
do tops know how much prep
goes into be ruled?
we hoe the good soil, raise the gate
flood the city for this one lonely steed
how dare they not love us!
isn’t love to say I made room
in my body for your body?
all these brown boys mistake me
for their hands, white ones see
a receipt on my back.
niggas better recognize
I’m God.
when my stomach rumbles
I eat a man in reverse.

This piece appears in The Lifted Brow #28. Get your copy here.

Danez Smith is the author of [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and Don’t Call Us Dead, forthcoming from Graywolf Press. He was a 2014 Ruth Lilly Fellow, a Cave Canem Fellow, and is a MFA Candidate at the University of Michigan.