how many of us have them?

friends! if i may interrupt right quick

i know y’all working, busy smoking & busy
trying not to smoke, busy with the kids & moms

& busy with alone, but i have just seen
two boys — yes, black — on bikes — also — summer children
basketball shorts & they outside shoes, wild

laughing bout something i couldn’t hear
over my own holler, trying to steady
the wheel & not hit they asses as they swerved
frienddrunk, making their little loops, sun-lotioned

faces screwed up with that first & cleanest love
we forget to name as such, &, hear me out
i’m not trying to dis lil dude, but in this gold hour
he kind of looked like Francine off Arthur
same monkey mouth & all, ole & i say hey looking-ass boy

tho in a beautiful way, the best beautiful
same as i know all of us have looked
like something off when backlit by love. o loves,
y’all ugly asses have crowned me the worst names:
wayne brady, gay wiz khalifa, all kinds of bitches
& fags (tho only with my bitches & fags), all kinds

of shit &, once, mark of buddha that year acne
scored my forehead with its bumpy faith.
my niggas & my niggas who are not niggas
i been almost-pissed myself, almost been boxin’
been tears & snot off your dozen wonders
been the giddy swine dancing the flame.
o my many hearts, y’all booty-faced

weird-ass ole mojo-jojo-looking asses
dusty chambers where my living dwells
roast me. name me in the old ways, your shit-
talk a river i wade, howling until it takes me.
i can’t stop laughing, more river wades
down my throat. could be drowning
could be becoming the water, could be
a baptism from the inside out.

don’t save me, i don’t wanna be saved.
i’ve died laughing before, been seen
god’s face & you have her teeth, my nig.
but   hers   ain’t   as   yellow   as   them   saffron   shits
you   keep   stashed   in   your   gloryfoul   mouth
my friend! my friends! my niggas! my wives!
i got a crush on each one of your dumb faces
smashing into my heart like idiot cardinals into glass
but i am a big-ass glass bird, a stupid monster

crashing through the window & becoming
it just to make you laugh. Andrew used to say
friendship is so friendship                        & ain’t it
even after Andrew gave it on over to whatever
he was still my nigga. when they turned his body
to dust he was still my dusty-ass boy.
don’t you hear it? the dust on the fan calls me
a bum, says my hairline looks like it’s thinking
about retirement. the dust in the car says i look
like a chubby slave, says i look too drunk, takes

my keys, drives me home. the wind is tangled
with the dust of the dead homies, carrying us over
to them, giggling in the mirror. hear them. hear
your long-gone girl tease your hair on the bus. hear them
rolling when you sweep broom across the beaten floor.
i miss them. all the dead. how young. how silly
to miss what you will become. i apologize.
sometimes it just catches up in me. love
& ghost gets caught up in us like wind & birds
trapped in a sheet just the same. & my friends
is some birds, some chicken-head muhfuckas

who i would legit stomp a nigga for, do you feel me?
when they buried my nigga i put on my timbs
walked into that hot august tried to beat his name
out the dirt. i beat the earth like a nigga.
i threw hands at the earth like a punk muhfucka
& the ground chuckled, said my nigga. what is you doing!
you can’t hear the wind drunk off the kindred lent?
can you hear that great roll from way off like a big nigga
laughing in an alley! how your dead auntie laugh
when she see you still ain’t grew into that big-ass head!
like your real friend laugh when you still the same ugly
as yesterday! same ugly as always! same ugly as their last life!

More Poems by Danez Smith