Two Movies


1. cast list

Mufasa & his absence played by every father ever

Simba played by the first boy you know who died too young

Sarabi played by the woman in church who has forgot the taste of praise
in favor of the earth that hold her boy captive

Nala played by the girl crying on the swing for her valentine who now date the dirt

Timon & Pumbaa played by Ray-Ray & Man-Man, the joy of not-dead friends

Zazu played by the ghost of James Baldwin

Rafiki played by a good uncle with a bad habit, his lust for rocks on his lips

Scar played by the world, the police, the law & its makers, the rope-colored hands

The endless army of hyenas played by a gust
choked tight with bullet shells, the bullets themselves
now dressed in a boy

2. Opening Credits

         brought to you by Disney & dead aunts

brought to you on a platter, an apple in the lion-boy’s mouth

         brought to you on a terrible boat, reeking of shit & an unnamed sick

brought to you on a tree branch heavy with tree-colored man

3. Opening Scene: The Circle of [interrupted]Life

Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
Sithi uhhmm [BANG] ingonyama

Nants ingonyama [a mother calls for her boy] bagithi baba
Sithi [BANG BANG] uhhmm ingonyama

Ingonyama Siyo [the sound of blood leaving a boy] Nqoba

Ingonyama  [a mother’s knees fall into a puddle
of the blood she made herself]
Ingonyama [the slow song of a spirit rising]nengw’ enamabala
[the spirit is confused about where its body went]

4. Song: Oh I just can’t wait to be king

this is the part where they realize that black people dream
& our blood is indeed blood & our teeth, teeth
& the music is loud because the field was wide & the field was long
& we dreamed on simple things: shoes, our children back

this is the part where the racist cuts off his tongue, his wet, pink repent
he gives his eyes & his hands & anything that has ever assumed
a black body a black & burnable thing. He gives himself to the lions
& the lions feast & the lions are still a metaphor for black boys
& the boys, full of fear turned into dinner, fall asleep & they dream

yes, yes, they really do dream.

5. Song: Be Prepared

         for the stampede of tiny lead beast

for the jury not to flinch

         for the hands, wild in your wildless hair

for the darkest toll, your double down to get half

         for the man, ecstatic with triggers

to spread your legs while they search for drugs there

         for the drug there, for their mouths to ask that big question

to hear your history told to you over & over & over

         for it never to change.

6. Scene:  Mufasa Dies at the hands of his brother Scar

What did you expect to be different?
The hood (according to whiteness & the sadness of this film) is any jungle:

a brother kills a brotha

the left behind body a forgettable meal
for the dark, white birds circling above

7. Montage: Timon & Pumbaa teach Simba a music other than the blues

clip 1: the boy getting older in spite of everything

clip 2: the boy & the boy-friends smoking blunts
for once something else brown & on fire

clip 3: the boy who would be king with his mouth
in another man’s throne

clip 4: Timon & Simba singing
down each other’s throat

clip 5: Timba calling Pumbaa a faggot & they all laugh

clip 6: murals of all the dead friends’ faces

clip 7: funeral songs. small caskets

clip 8: red, blue, periwinkle, yellow, black, & blood-maroon rags

clip 9: flowers & picture frames on the side walk

clip 10: shot the boys laughing anyway

clip 11: shot the boys laughing in the sun

clip 12: shot the boys laughing in the rain

clip 13: shot of the boys not being shot

8. Scene: Simba comes home to kill his uncle

& even here, a black man
kills a black man, this awful cartoon, all the children cry
blood until their bodies are just bone on skin.

roll the credits, I must go weep. Why does Disney remind us
what we have learned:

– one black light swallows another so easy
– killing is unavoidable as death
– the king’s throne is wet with his brother’s blood
– the queen suffers too but gets no name

9. closing credits

say the name
of the first boy
you love
who died.
say it
& don’t cry.
say it
& love
the air
around your tongue.
say it
& watch
the fire come.
say it
& watch the son rise.


i. not an elegy for Trayvon Martin 

the rain has come, thus somewhere
a dead thing is being washed away.

This time, they’ve named it a black boy.
This time, every time, same difference.
What a great, sad thought he is, this dead boy
clutching tight to sweetness.

How long does it take a story to become a legend?
How long before a legend becomes a god or

Ask the river what it was like when it was rain
then ask it who it drowned.

ii. not an elegy for Renisha McBride

but an ode to whoever did her hair
& rubbed the last oil into her cold scalp

or a myth the bullet & the red yolk it hungers to show her

or the tale his hands, pale & washed in shadow
for they finished what the car could not.

if I must call this her faith, I call God my enemy.

iii. not an elegy for Mike Brown

I am sick of writing this poem
but bring the boy. his new name

his same old body. ordinary, black
dead thing. bring him & we will mourn
until we forget what we are mourning

& isn’t that what being black is about?
not the joy of it, but the feeling

you get when you are looking
at your child, turn your head,
then, poof, no more child.

that feeling. that’s black.


think: once, a white girl

was kidnapped & that’s the Trojan war.

later, up the block, Troy got shot
& that was Tuesday. are we not worthy

of a city of ash? of 1000 ships
launched because we are missed?

always, something deserves to be burned.
it’s never the right thing.

I demand a war to bring the dead boy back
no matter what his name is this time.

I at least demand a song. a song will do for now.


look at what the lord has made.
above Missouri, sweet smoke.

iv. who has time for joy?

another week, another boy
dead because he’s black

& soon more will wade
into after without a name

or questionable photo
on the local news.

how do you expect
me to dance

when everyday someone
who looks like everyone

I love is in a gun fight
armed only with skin?

look closely
& you’ll find a funeral

frothing in the corners
of my mouth, my mouth

hungry for a prayer
to make it all a lie.

reader, what does it
feel like to be safe?

how does it feel
to dance when you’re not

dancing away the ghost?
how does joy taste

when it’s not followed
by will come in the morning?

reader, it’s morning again
& somewhere, a mother

is pulling her hands
across her boy’s cold shoulders

kissing what’s left
of his face. where

is her joy? what’s she
to do with a son

who’ll spoil soon?
& what of the boy?

what was his last dream?
who sang to him

while the world closed
into dust?

what cure marker did we just kill?
what legend did we deny

his legend? I have no more
room for grief

for it us everywhere now.
listen. listen to my laugh

& if you pay attention
you’ll hear his wake.


prediction: the cop will walk free

the boy will still be dead


every night I pray to my God
for ashes

I pray to my God for ashes
to begin again

my God, for ashes, to begin again
I’d give my tongue

to begin again I’d give my tongue

a cop’s tongue too

v. not an elegy for Brandon Zachery

a boy I was a boy with took his own life
right out his own hands. I forgot

black boys leave that way too
I have no words that bring him

back, I am not magic. I’ve tried, but I am just
flesh, just blood yet to spill. People at the funeral

wondered what made him do it. People said
he saw something. I think that’s it. he saw something

what? the world? a road?

a river saying his name?

trees? a pair of ivory hands?

his reflection? his son’s?

vi. hand me down

all my uncles are veterans of the war
but most of them just call it blackness.

all their music sounds like gospel
from a gun’s mouth. I gather the blues

must be named after the last bit of flame
licking what used to be a pew
or a girl.

I wish our skin didn’t come
with causalities, I can’t imagine a sidewalk

without blood.


when the men went off to fight
each other, the women stood

in the kitchen making dinner
for white folks. (no one said

the kitchen was theirs. no one said
their children didn’t thin

then disappear altogether.)


so not all the women worked
keeping someone else’s house in order.
my great grandmother owned her block
a shop where she sold fatback & taffy, ran numbers.

I imagine that little stretch of St. Louis
as a kingdom, a church, a safe house
made of ox tails & pork rinds
a place to come to be black & not dead.


eventually, all black people die.
I believe when a person dies
the black lives on.

Danez Smith is the recipient of a 2014 Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from Poetry Magazine & The Poetry Foundation. He is also the recipient of fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, Cave Canem, VONA, & elsewhere. Danez is the author of [insert] Boy (forthcoming, YesYes Books) & the chapbook hands on ya knees (Penmanship books, 2013). He was featured in The Academy of American Poets’ Emerging Poets Series by Patricia Smith. Danez is a founding member of the multi-genre, multicultural Dark Noise Collective. His writing has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kinfolks & elsewhere. He placed second at the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam, is the reigning 2-time Rustbelt Individual Champion & was on 2014 Championship Team Sad Boy Supper Club. In 2014, he was the Festival Director for the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. He holds a BA from UW-Madison where he was a First Wave Urban Arts Scholar. He was born in St. Paul, MN.


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