Back to Issue Forty-Six

Denver

BY DANEZ SMITH

 

the go-go dancers are angels
humming the shadows
even bassless, dark buzzing
the fluttering dark around them
the weed is good
this high up, it’s still not heaven
but we spend the day in clouds
playing could we live here?
surveying the bar
forecasting memories, poppers
between could-be’s and if’s
& i know, even though
it’s still america
it’s not mine
i don’t know this place’s sins
ignorant as a man new to heaven
ready to rest, expecting his mother
instead issued a robe
& put in his place
before instructed to sing forever.
i forgot where i was.
the angels in prison.
with you, i’m almost free.
the weed is great.
every land has and will its elegies.
i’ve seen too much to see heaven.
i could write mine anywhere.
with you, i’m free to not have a mind.
we could move anywhere
& the world would find us.
i could die anywhere.
i tie my life to you.
bring the dark.
i hear humming.
angels. angels. angels.

 

Sioux Falls

BY DANEZ SMITH

 

where the water crashes into the quartzite, i love you
though our joints cuss us for leaping the islands
of stone striped by meek rivers, though there is more
us to touch than when we first meet as hungry strangers
naked but for the socks & my pink jock, i love all that new you
folding round as we cross where the ducks are sick of us
though you hate it, i lay my head there, when i am sick of sound
i rest my ear where you breathe & rumble, i love that gut
that i love everyday which you don’t notice until we make way
across the water where the water above meets the water below
& their touch makes a sound like clapping, my hand to my other hand,
like the sound of your body crashing into mine in the last brush of dark
the alarm of your want getting us up before the phone’s electric
morning bell, the bell you make of us, love, like that, the water
meeting the water, an applause gravity bound, an ovation
we cross the stones to witness, that joyful noise
older than our families with these names shipped west to us
shipped us west, moved west gold hungry, kill happy, shrinking the future
older than those people who gave us those names,
their sound waxing ringing thinning the earth
older than bells, my love, that sound, i love you near it
how dare i love you here in the evidence of evil
how dare i want you where greed led west to rob beauty
everywhere, the end of water or waterlogged endings
everywhere, forever, an end of the world, so I look for you,
if we make it, in the night & should it come, the morning
kiss me where the water crashes the water into concert
take me, my river, my rain, & fall into me.

 

Volta

BY DANEZ SMITH

 

run me my river
need my stone near the stump

accidental table on which mosses max
on light & what rain comes still.

run me my time
unelectric & unsquared, the green

& pebble endless, the dry must of thirst,
run me my hunt & my gather, the key

in the sky searching for thunder’s hand
the greatest of many mistakes

including the large boat, the lock, the whip, the cotton gin
the pen, the mistake of the first women

who shoulda bashed the first man’s fishy head open.
yes, i’d prefer the wars women woven

maybe then good war would be a thing. some idiot
& hopeful part of me believes that. i think i’d live

a good life if left untouched, uninvented, unboated
somewhere continental where my gods & my devils

have my face. would my terror be more peaceful
in those brown, uninterrupted hands?

like to imagine my own river in that old place
my old blood knew. somewhere near a king

known for her kindness or the peace
of a king near i want dead & can kill.

Danez Smith is the author of three award-winning collections including Homie and Don’t Call Us Dead. Their fourth collection, Bluff, is forthcoming in August 2024. They live in Minneapolis near their people.

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