TWO POEMS by Danez Smith

/ / Issue 4, Poetry


or how to tame a brushfire

or how you get on his last nerve
& juke on it

or how he breathes while he dreams
of a mouth full

or how the war was won
when you got him limp

or how his eyes shut up
& bottom lip caught ‘tween teeth

or how you spell your name

or how to own his hands
maybe one palming a nipple

or what elastic was made for

or how to see him certain of tongue
& clumsy with his skin

or what makes those nameless muscles
clench, trying to save it for later

or the hymn written across his veins

or how he hopes the world ends

or his favorite kind of Sunday

or when he knew
he’d kill a nigga
for your sway



when your song plays, steal your body
back out the gut of that brute/nigga/beast/boy.

sweat the bile off, unlearn the word acid,
dance until the only thing you’re sure of is the ache

in your thighs & your name as a metaphor for steam.
bend your knees because you want to,

not for any god or dirty nails in your shoulder.
go down knowing there is still a sky

to rise towards. give your scars to the strobe lights,
let them wash you in lightning, wait for whatever

kind of salvation a basement brings. twerk
& ain’t that the best prayer?

tonight, you left his ghost at home, left a note
for him to pack his ghost-shit & leave

by the time the sun soars in your honor. honey, you’re here
& that’s it’s own psalm. don’t let nobody look at you

& not know they looking at the risen. this how you write
free all over your bones & for the first time

you know free doesn’t mean how his hands mistook you
for somebody’s water, but how you were made to be

like wind, like a hawk, like a doe mid leap,
like a storm, like a child, like a song. 




Issue 4 Contents                            NEXT: The City is a Body Broken by                                                                                                         Natalie Scenters-Zapico