Danez Smith

in the church I've built in my dreams my grandfather is a deacon. He sits front pew, suit pressed & white gold crown of fro, he sings during devotion like a man who spent his life starving for a God that wouldn't come, for a world to love the darkest parts of him, for breasts & brandy's sweet brown wet, for love he couldn't give his own woman. I'm happy my grandfather has found salvation in my dreams, for once not in church in the name of matrimony or memorial. His voice fills the room with hot light, the room is his voice now, we all a congregation of my papa's hot bright song, & the church said 'Amen!' & the church said 'Amen!'

the youth choir sings every Sunday sing their hearts out right out their chest let you see where the song starts. each one got a name like a spell; one say 'Oscar' & the year starts over, one say 'Jonylah' & we all grow up. their bodies so woundless, skin all the colors of the first clay, they sang 'I am on the battlefield' & they all one mouth one sharp, impossible beast of sound with a million hands chapping, some playing a tambourine of bullet shells. They sing 'I am on the battlefield, for my lord, for my lord' & the room is a concert of holy, a basement party sweaty with hips & gospel & the church said 'Amen!' & the church said 'Amen!'

the hundred organs are made of rope & hell can they make it moan. all of them so in love with the wail of those braided pipes, all sitting there, caught in the arms of the music holding them down to the earth, all the dark of the world worn like a dress or a suit, a funeral for loneliness, the church wild with black confetti & organ's gold teeth, the girls all kiss as they play the lowest notes, the boys can't help but whine when the bridge comes. the church, when two men hold hands in praise, praise with them, throw rice & rose petal, the sanctuary is blazing with love & the church said 'Amen!' & the church said 'Amen!'

then god steps to the front, the church still a chaos of glory, takes one hair from her head, pulls until all the hair & all the skin comes off & she is just jeweled blood on bone & the church said 'Amen! & she keeps pulling until the blood & bone is gone, until the lungs & heart float mid-air still unraveling & the church said 'Amen!' & then she is air herself, & the air is her & the light is her, & the queers are her & the dead black kids are her, & my grandfather is her, & they are her, & we are her & the church said 'Amen!' & the church said 'Amen!' & the church said 'Amen!'

Danez Smith is a Cave Canem Fellow, Pushcart Nominee, Survivor & Black Queer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the winner of the 2014 Reading Series Contest sponsored by The Paris-American, was featured in The Academy of American Poets' Emerging Poets Series by Patricia Smith & was a finalist for the 2013 Rattle Poetry Prize. Danez is the author of 'hands on ya knees', a chapbook published by Penmanship Books. His full-length collection, '[insert] Boy, will be published in 2014 by Yes Yes Books. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Magazine, Ploughshares, Devil's Lake, The Cortland Review, Anti-, & elsewhere. Danez started writing because of slams & necessity, & placed 6th in the world at the 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam & is the 2013 Rustbelt Midwest Regional Slam Champion. Danez twerks with the best, has no time for the rest. He writes & lives in Oakland, CA. Visit iamdanezsmith.org.

more by Danez Smith:
in the heaven I am betrothed to, everything is black
Jim Crow, Rock Star