Thursday, April 02, 2015

Danez Smith 'alternate names for black boys'

I can't remember the timeline*, but possibly just before Ferguson (and therefore prophetically), Danez Smith wrote a poem called 'alternate names for black boys'.

At the same time, poets like Frederick Siedel were asked to write poems in big magazines and the question of who can speak and for whom, and what means became current once again.

I am remembering this poem and another one that Smith wrote for Michael Brown, because earlier in March this year, Kenneth Goldsmith did a "performance" (for mostly white people) which was basically a version of the autopsy report of Michael Brown.


So I wanted to remind myself of what a poem that is political and angry can sound like.

alternate names for black boys

 by Danez Smith

1. smoke above the burning bush
2. archnemesis of summer night
3. first son of soil
4. coal awaiting spark & wind
5. guilty until proven dead
6. oil heavy starlight
7. monster until proven ghost
8. gone
9. phoenix who forgets to un-ash
10. going, going, gone
11. gods of shovels & black veils
12. what once passed for kindling
13. fireworks at dawn
14. brilliant, shadow hued coral
15. (I thought to leave this blank
but who am I to name us nothing?)
16. prayer who learned to bite & sprint
17. a mother’s joy & clutched breath


*I checked: the poem appeared in Poetry in March last year and Michael Brown was shot dead in August 2014. So yes - prophetic. Or just a good hand on the pulse.

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