665 notes

alternate names for black boys
by Danez Smith

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

As the world watched the tumultuous events in Ferguson, Mo., over the last week, a new hashtag was born: #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. The meme was photographic: what images would the media use if I died? But the question, at its heart, was one of naming.

Kid or criminal? Victim or threat? Brother, son, friend — or thug? One of us, or other?

Danez Smith grapples with the power of naming, and the powerlessness of being named, in this poem. Poetry Magazine tweeted it out earlier today, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

— Camila

(via nprbooks)

(via nprbooks)

45 notes

Presidential sex writing



According to the New York Times Magazine, the sexually explicit WWI-era correspondence of former President Warren G. Harding with his long-time mistress (and possible, if unlikely, spy for Germany) Carrie Fulton Phillips, is about to be released. Harding, in the featured excerpts, comes off very much as an early twentieth-century version of the sulky presidential man-child Fitzgerald Grant III from ABC’s Scandal—a fact I actually find pretty interesting from a storytelling perspective, since the letters are about as solidly in his own voice as something is possible to be, yet he still comes off (to me) as firmly unsympathetic.

Reluctantly I have drifted to the unavoidable impression that you had [illegible] that you were probably more interested and diverted by the attractive men who were near at hand, and able to bestow their admiration and attention. Men nearby are infinitely preferable to a prosy lover from a thousand miles away, who can only write the same old story over and over again. I suppose you will think I never mean anything that I say, but I am likely to get into politics again.

Blah blah blah, Warren, I can hear her dozing off from here. Though there were also moments where I felt less his doucheyness and more his sort of human absurdity, which is also an impressive little narrative trick, though one I’m fairly sure he didn’t intend (bolding mine).

Didn’t go to church today — it cost too much last Sunday — so I got up, had a luxurious bath and donned my bathrobe in which to breakfast. Three weeks ago [the robe] touched and covered your beautiful form, and that made it hallowed to me, and I wanted contact with it, to make me seem nearer to you. And I wanted to sit before the fire afterward, in freedom of dress, and dream of you and of loving you, intimately, until [illegible]. I like to dream in loose, flowing garb, because I can dream more intently. And I did — to alarming release. I called your name aloud thrice, begging you to come, and a voice from upstairs responded, wanting to know what I wanted. I was alarmed and sobered.

I’m sure you were, Warren. I’m sure you were. Anyway, interesting to me from perspectives of both historical sexually explicit writing, and diverse things sex can do in narrative, so thought I would share. 

Also the 29th President of the United States apparently called his erection “Jerry,” so you know. There’s that.

"What the hell do you want, Warren?" "Nothing, dear, I was just having a wet-dream about my mistress." "Again?”

(via stuckinabucket-deactivated20140)