Don’t Call Us Dead

Danez Smith

Apparently I’m having a moment of reading contemporary poems by gay men.* They’ve all been great, but this is probably my fave of the bunch by just a little bit. As a collection, it feels so cohesive with poems about being a black man, a gay man, HIV-positive, and the intersections between them. Favorites include “dear white america,” “every day is a funeral & a miracle,” and this one:

at the down-low house party

don’t expect no nigga to dance.

we drink hen, hold the wall

 

graze an elbow & pray it last forever.

everybody wants to touch a nigga, but don’t

 

we say wats gud meaning i could love you until my jaw

is but memory, we say yo meaning let my body

 

be a falcon’s talon & your body be the soft innards of goats

but we mostly say nothing, just sip

 

some good brown trying to get drunk

with permission. sometime between here

 

& being straight again, some sweet

boned, glittering boi shows up, starts voguing & shit

 

his sharp hips pierce our desire, make our mouths water

& water & we call him faggot meaning bravery

 

faggot meaning often dream

of you, flesh damp & confused for mine

 

faggot meaning Hail the queen! Hail the queen!

faggot meaning i been waited ages to dance with you

 

* see also: When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities and Madness