there is nothing in the universe worth more than the dance floor at a good black wedding
or possibly the sound my light skinned uncle makes when a song he forgot was his song comes on
i tell you this so you can understand how i think of memory, currency, wealth, that kind of shit
my favorite story to tell: once, on the porch, watching The Wheel, my mom was screaming all kinds of wild shit at the TV then my grandma said it’s a place, fool. that joke may sound lame here but it kills on the porch. might could be the happiest i’ve ever been. we was laughing so hard & all alive. nary a cancer had touched us, not a single sick was nursing off our gut, loosening the stools, unbraiding us as we mothered it
i just want you to understand how i understand happiness. summer is my favorite season cause it’s when you can sit still with someone by a tree quiet as hell & call that a good time. i pride myself on being regular & black
i believe in god the most amid wet acts: sex, birth, rain, mid electric slide. i believe because the people i love the most told me to, easier to name the luck which keeps me alive
fact: there is nothing more beautiful than a black woman on the way to whatever she considers church
fact: sister bernitta lost 16 pounds when she started catching the holy ghost once a day
fact: i know a woman who pearls a beautiful blunt & could out gospel yolanda adams any day
fact: today i passed my grandma, said a joke & she laughed, i knew then that i had a purpose
i just want you to understand how i understand everything. i was raised by people who believe there is a way to raise a child. i grew up black & quite happy all things considered. i was loved & had good friends & bad friends who i no longer fuck with. i won fights & got my lip busted & cried in my closet & danced with girls & called a boy a faggot & had a fade & was shot at once & only once & finger painted & felt indescribable loneliness & was given twenty bucks when i was going to the mall. i was homecoming king & pookie’s son & track team captain & played a vulture in The Wizard of Oz & was a virgin & then wasn’t & ate chicken & there was never a question of if i was going to college or not
i was quite normal, quite boring
i tell you this so you can understand this: when that man filled me with what had to be a ghost, i knew i was no longer normal, rushed into a new standard. when he jimmied his way into my blood & broke something that felt like a vow, i wasn’t surprised when, while lotioning, i touched my back, felt feathers
old confession & new
it sounds crazy, but it feels like truth. i tell you –
it felt like i practiced for it, auditioned even, applied.
what the doctor told me was not news, was legend
catching up to me, a blood whispering
you were born for this. i tell you – i was not shocked
but confirmed. enlisted? i am on the battlefield
& i am the field & the battle & the casualty & the gun.
my war is but a rumor & is not war. i swallow a green pill
everyday at noon to take asylum from my body.
i am a delicacy in the tradition of the fugu.
too much of me will end you. at the end of me
there is a boy i barely remember, barely ever knew
saying don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry.
so now that it’s an old fact, can it be useful?
that which hasn’t killed you yet can pay the rent
if you play it right. keep it really real:
plenty black folks get paid off the cruelty
of whites, why not make the blood
a business? here. take it. here’s what happened to me.
while you marvel at it imma run to the store.
my blood brings me closer to death,
talking about it has bought me new boots,
a summer’s worth of car notes, organic fruit.
Danez Smith is the author of Don’t Call Us Dead, a finalist for the National Book Award, and [insert] boy, winner of the Lambda Literary Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. They co-host the Poetry Foundation–sponsored podcast VS with Franny Choi.