Back to Issue Nineteen.

dark child nah nah (or self-portrait as 90s r&b video)

BY DANEZ SMITH

lately, i’ve been opening doors in slow motion
& find myself often wearing loose white silks
in rooms packed with wind machines & dusk
I have a tendency to be sad near windows
thinking of all the problems i have
with my man with his trifflin yellow ass
my man is more a concept than anything
at dinner i watch red pepper soup spill
onto his power blue button down shirt
& ask why don’t you love me anymore?
i sit on the couch with a wine glass full
of milk, cry in a way that makes me gorgeous
& fuckable. my girls come over & we burn
his suits to light our spliffs. my best friend
tells me I need to get over him, he doesn’t
even exist, but what she know? i have all this
house to walk through, all these gowns to cry
on, all these windows to watch the rain through
there must be a man in this house who loves me
too much to do it well. there’s a room
in my basement filled with water & gold & that’s it.
water up to my well managed waist
gold link chains that curl around my ankles
like boa constrictor or the hands of a man
around a neck he once loved to bite & call
for god into. i dip my head in, let even
my hair get wet & rise out the water hood Venus
Afrodite, bitch god with iced out ropes draped
from my head & arms & covering my nipples
& ill nana just so. I could be a trophy for some
award show only niggas know, every rapper’s
favorite ex, 1996 given a body & he don’t
love this? I walk into my foyer cause i have
a foyer & say who is she, nigga? I swear
the hydrangeas flinch. my man is so fake
he doesn’t exist. my girl was right – all those
suits were mine, my man is all in my head
& it’s a bad head. tomorrow, after I run
& spend some time studying the mirror’s
wisdom, i’ll burn this motherfucker down
like Left Eye would, like any good wife.
whatever survives the blaze will be
my kingdom. i hope i make it.  

 

 

23 positions in a one-night stand

BY DANEZ SMITH

         after Prince

Facing the TV, we do it missionary with my
head hanging over the bed so we can both
watch The Color Purple on BET. When
Shug Avery sings “God is Tryna Tell You
Something” we both start to cry, your tears
falling on my face and into my hair.  

             //

We sit cross legged on my floor on a Space
Jam comforter. We take turns smacking each
other saying rabbit season, duck season, rabbit
season, duck season.

             //

I say eat me and you pull a bottle of ranch out
of nowhere. I say nah nan nigga, but you grunt
and devour.  

             //

Doggie Style & we both eat ribs.  

             //

You take my last bone and I get mad, so I
pull a rib out of your chest. It grows a
woman around it. She makes us lick her
boots.  

             //

I suck you with a lot of gusto and don’t stop
until it’s too late & you're all gone. It takes me
3 hours to pass you. you kick the whole time.  

             //

I’m smoking a blunt and watching Love &
Hip Hop LA while you suck my toes. You
make it all the way to the knee before you
suggest a gag. 

             //

you put one of my legs on your shoulder and
mount the other to the wall. you make car
noises and ride reckless, I make my eyes look
like a deer’s, my body a road.  

             //

I sit on your face and I read you Sula.  

             //

We do the Dirty Sanchez while discussing
the racial politics of intimacy. 

             //

You make me a sandwich. You slice and slice
and slide until I am thin and piled and
topped with tomatoes.

             //

Reverse-Reverse Cowgirl aka Someone get
that horse off that woman! We kill the horse.
We ride its ghost into the sunset. 

             //

you stand on one side of the room and I
stand on the other. We run toward each
other at full speed and become a singular sad
man playing with himself.  

             //

You go into a phone booth and come out
Superman. I go into a phone booth and
come out a slightly smaller phone booth. 
you go into me. 

             //

You throw grapes at me while I dance
around naked singing Purple Rain. 

             //

You run out of grapes and start throwing
whatever you can grab: the coffee table, my
phone charger, rib tips, the dog, my copy of
Sula, shade, and a bird cage filled with the
saddest dove alive.  

             //

How bout up in the library on top of books, but you
can’t be too loud.

             //

The woman who grew from your rib (you
forgot about her, huh?) is picking greens in
the corner. When she’s done, she stuff me
full of collards the wrong way, stuffs you full
of corn bread.  

             //

Tired, I lay on my side and lift one leg in the
air. You drill and drill and drill, I watch New
Girl and check my email. 

             //

Doggy Style again. This time, extra ribs.  

             //

You finish finally and lay on top of me out
of breath. Slowly, you turn to into ribs. The
ribs slowly turn into 11 better women.  

             //

You go to take a shower while I stay in bed.
When you come back, I’m gone, the window
is busted, & there’s a pile of bones where I
was. You cry out for God and I turn on the
lights.  

             //

You ask me to marry you for the night and I
say I guess. you slick your ring finger into me.
I turn to gold.

 

 

Danez Smith is a Black, queer, poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the author of [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017). Danez is also the author of two chapbooks, hands on your knees (2013, Penmanship Books) and black movie (2015, Button Poetry), winner of the Button Poetry Prize. They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. Danez's work has been featured widely including on Buzzfeed, Blavity, PBS NewsHour, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. They are a 2-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, 3-time Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion, and a founding member of the Dark Noise Collective.

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