Two lines keep bringing me back: “i’m waiting for a few folks/i love dearly to die so i can be myself.” In this world filled, sometimes, with more breakdowns than breaks, it feels sometimes an anachronism to hear anybody say they love somebody deeply. Then it hurts a bit to remember all that comes with love. Who among us ain’t been a bit afraid to be they whole entire self? Who doesn’t understand that desire? Selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts
waiting on you to die so i can be myself
By Danez Smith
a thousand years of daughters, then me.
what else could i have learned to be?
girl after girl after giving herself to herself
one long ring-shout name, monarchy of copper
& coal shoulders. the body is a garment.
i learn this best from the snake angulating
out of her pork-rind dress. i crawl out of myself
into myself, take refuge where i flee.
once, i snatched my heart out like a track
& found not a heart, but two girls forever
playing slide on a porch in my chest.
who knows how they keep count
they could be a single girl doubled
& joined at the hands. i’m stalling.
i want to say something without saying it
but there’s no time. i’m waiting for a few folks
i love dearly to die so i can be myself.
please don’t make me say who.
bitch, the garments i’d buy if my baby
wasn’t alive. if they woke at their wake
they might not recognize that woman
in the front making all that noise.
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and a lawyer. He created Freedom Reads, an initiative to curate microlibraries and install them in prisons across the country. His latest collection of poetry, “Felon,” explores the post-incarceration experience. His 2018 article in The New York Times Magazine about his journey from teenage carjacker to working lawyer won a National Magazine Award. Danez Smith is a Minneapolis-based poet whose latest collection is “Homie: Poems” (Graywolf Press, 2020).