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Tonight, in Oakland

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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.

Danez Smith, "Tonight, in Oakland." Copyright © 2015 by Danez Smith. Used by permission of the author for PoetryNow, a partnership between the Poetry Foundation and the WFMT Radio Network.
Source: PoetryNow (PoetryNow, 2015)
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Tonight, in Oakland

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  • Danez Smith was born St. Paul, Minnesota. They are the author of Don't Call Us Dead (2017), [insert] Boy (2014), winner of the Lambda Literary Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and the chapbook hands on ya knees (Penmanship Books, 2013). Smith is the recipient of fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, Cave Canem, Voices of Our Nation (VONA), and elsewhere. They are a founding member of the multigenre, multicultural Dark Noise Collective. Their writing has appeared in many magazines and journals, such as Poetry, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Kinfolks. In poetry slam, Smith is a 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam finalist and the reigning two-time Rustbelt Individual Champion, and was on the 2014 championship team Sad Boy Supper Club. In 2014 they were the festival director for the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam, and were awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Smith...

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