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alternate names for black boys

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1.   smoke above the burning bush
2.   archnemesis of summer night
3.   first son of soil
4.   coal awaiting spark & wind
5.   guilty until proven dead
6.   oil heavy starlight
7.   monster until proven ghost
8.   gone
9.   phoenix who forgets to un-ash
10. going, going, gone
11. gods of shovels & black veils
12. what once passed for kindling
13. fireworks at dawn
14. brilliant, shadow hued coral
15. (I thought to leave this blank
       but who am I to name us nothing?)
16. prayer who learned to bite & sprint
17. a mother’s joy & clutched breath

Source: Poetry (March 2014)

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This poem originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

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alternate names for black boys

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  • Danez Smith was born St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of [insert] Boy (YesYes Books, 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. He is a founding member of the multigenre, multicultural Dark Noise Collective. His writing has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kinfolks and elsewhere. In poetry slam, he 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 he was the festival director for the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam, and he was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He earned a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was...

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