Don’t Try Us

A poem for people who were born into a world that has sought to destroy them. From the Diaspora Issue.
Words by Danez Smith

Thank you, boats. Thank you, boats, which carried the women that mothered my friends across the blood-blue waters. Thank you, boats loaded with dreams & fish & people & hunger & new hope. Thank you, water, for sheltering my would-be kin from those cruel, pale men, for the boats of cargo folk you sunk into safety & the boats of the fleeing you granted safe passage.

Thank you, planes. Thank you, planes, who deliver my loves safely from turbulence into refuge. Thank you, planes, you iron backed birds, metal mouths singing a friend into my arms. Thank you, great turbine angels, for the gift of your landing & your lift.

Thank you, feet, who ran north, or away, & now the children of your running are here, at this table, with me. Thank you, feet under the table, you brown, cracked, smelly blessings, you left-right-left-right heroes. Thank you, feet teaching feet how to foot. Sofía showing me the proper beats of salsa. Hieu learning at last how to step in the name of love. Maybe rhythm is a language our enemies don’t speak. Maybe when babel fell, what was left were some brown girls dancing, making tongueless sounds, making heaven with the bottoms of feet.

Thank you, feet. Thank you, planes. Thank you, boats.
& Fuck you, walls. Fuck you, bans. Fuck you, drones.

Fuck you, walls seeking to split a body in two; you steel, imaginary boarders on pick-pocketed land. Fuck you, walls dreamed up in an empty orange head, walls we’d phase through like a bad rumor. Fuck you, bans cooked up in an ivory pot, bans on skin & gods & sense. I put a ban on bans, your idiot law, I bind you from binding a single thing. & fuck you, drones. Fuck you, drones who make the fleeing flee, drones who destroy the home, the hands controlling drones who won’t let you find a new one. I curse a curse on your homes, on your greedy throats, your human hearts drained of mercy & good. I send a pack of bois & gurls to vogue on your necks.

I come from a people who were shipments & never immigrants. I roll with a clique of bad browns made American by America’s bloody vows of freedom. Don’t try us. We children of boats & hands & planes, children of abuelas & aunties & rice, children of hands that braid & book & give you that work, hands that build & take down & pray & slay, hands that ballot & belt & beam a tomorrow now, hands that seed & plant & harvest & feast, hands that battle & battle & battle & battle. Don’t try us. Our people didn’t boat, feet, plane, & die in this land so you could turn us into memories. This is your final warning. Don’t make us go climate change, show you where the heat tucked.

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Don’t Try Us