National Poetry Month ends on April 30th, but you can keep the feeling going strong by signing up to receive a poem by email from the American Academy of Poets, the folks responsible for starting National Poetry Month in 1996.
I signed up for Poem-a-Day back in 2014, which means I’ve read and received hundreds of poems over the years. Some days I skim the poem and smile, then move on with my day. Other days, the poem resonates deep within me and shifts my perspective for the rest of the day, following me like a shadow. Either way, receiving a new poem to read each day has been a wonderful way for me to grow my knowledge of the body of American poetry.
You can join thousands of others who have discovered the pleasures of a Poem-a-Day by visiting the Academy of American Poets page here. In the meantime, here’s a copy of today’s poem written by Mineapolis-based poet, Danez Smith.
say it with your whole black mouth
by Danez Smith
say it with your whole black mouth: i am innocent
& if you are not innocent, say this: i am worthy of forgiveness,
of breath after breath
i tell you this: i let blue eyes dress me in guilt
walked around stores convinced the very skin of my palm was stolen
& what good has that brought me? days filled flinching
thinking the sirens were reaching for me
& when the sirens were for me
did i not make peace with god?
so many white people are alive because
we know how to control ourselves.
how many times have we died on a whim
wielded like gallows in their sun-shy hands?
here, standing in my own body, i say: the next time
they murder us for the crime of their imaginations
i don’t know what i’ll do.
i did not come to preach of peace
for that is not the hunted’s duty.
i came here to say what i can’t say
without my name being added to a list
what my mother fears i will say
what she wishes to say herself
i came here to say
i can’t bring myself to write it down
sometimes i dream of pulling a red apology
from a pig’s collared neck & wake up crackin up
if i dream of setting fire to cul-de-sacs
i wake chained to the bed
i don’t like thinking about doing to white folks
what white folks done to us
when i do
i don’t dance
o my people
how long will we
reach for god
instead of something sharper?
my lovely doe
with a taste for meat
by his hand
Copyright (c) 2018 by Danez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.