about the author

Danez Smith is a poet, performer, and playwright from St. Paul, MN, who is still slightly afraid of his mama’s belt. Danez, a Cave Canem fellow, is published or forthcoming in [PANK], Vinyl, Phantom Limb, and elsewhere. Danez recently earned his BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a founding member of the First Wave Hip-Hop Theatre Ensemble. He recently placed 6th in the world (well, Canada and the USA) at the Individual World Poetry Slam. Danez enjoys the occasional dance battle with his roommate and Capri Suns on hot summer days. Find out more on danezsmith.com.

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for black boys

Danez Smith

and before memory was something to thank the Gods for
before there was a before to remember, before Lucifer turned
from choir boy to bully, before things learned to fall, before the sound of
shattered the night into a thousand and one prayers, before morgues
were the color of family reunions, we were Gods, and God was there too,
not as the Almighty, but as one of the mighty all.

Do you remember the golden skinned paths before they became sidewalks
crusted over with the blood of us like spilled kool-aid, like leaked jazz, like
Do you remember before your name was synonymous with fear, with
with BANG!, with gone, with black suits and boxes and soil, with too young,
      with shame,
with mercy, with mercy, with mercy? Do you remember before the white
winged like angels, took you to dance on new dirt, before they made you
in wing-tipped shoes, your face smeared blacker than your black, your brown
painted fat and red, only to feed your family, before you dodged lead-winged
and couldn’t quite get the rhythm right? Before we had to remember you?
Do you remember?

Of course you don’t, no one does.

Make them.

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