These introductions are weird, because I don’t always feel qualified to write them. Sometimes I simply find a poem or a poet I want to investigate further, something or someone catching me in that certain way that poem/ts are supposed to catch people. I’ve known of Danez Smith for a little while, but I was not very familiar with his work until very recently, when I picked up his collection Black Movie. I haven’t been through the book yet, but the purchase inspired me to read some of his work online, and “Tonight, in Oakland” is my favorite of what I found.
Tonight, in Oakland
by Danez Smith
I did not come here to sing a blues.
Lately, I open my mouth
& out comes marigolds, yellow plums.
I came to make the sky a garden.
Give me rain or give me honey, dear lord.
The sky has given us no water this year.
I ride my bike to a boy, when I get there
what we make will not be beautiful
or love at all, but it will be deserved.
I’ve started seeking men to wet the harvest.
Come, tonight I declare we must move
instead of pray. Tonight, east of here,
two boys, one dressed in what could be blood
& one dressed in what could be blood
before the wound, meet & mean mug
& God, tonight, let them dance! Tonight,
the bullet does not exist. Tonight, the police
have turned to their God for forgiveness.
Tonight, we bury nothing, we serve a God
with no need for shovels, we serve a God
with a bad hip & a brother in prison.
Tonight, let every man be his own lord.
Let wherever two people stand be a reunion
of ancient lights. Let’s waste the moon’s marble glow
shouting our names to the stars until we are
the stars. O, precious God! O, sweet black town!
I am drunk & I thirst. When I get to the boy
who lets me practice hunger with him
I will not give him the name of your newest ghost
I will give him my body & what he does with it
is none of my business, but I will say look,
I made it a whole day, still, no rain
still, I am without exit wound
& he will say Tonight, I want to take you
how the police do, unarmed & sudden
& tonight, when we dream, we dream of dancing
in a city slowly becoming ash.