by Danez Smith

i love those two g’s in the middle
hanging down like hands scooping
water from a river pink with dusk. i love
how it starts in the nose (ni-) then
runs to the back of the mouth
& kicks the soft palate drum (-ggas)
i love how it mean. & how it mean
that which is me & that which is
them over there & it make me
smile to think about all us
just black slices of the same black
bloodloaf. it do my heart well to think
on niggas, do my spirit good to
say NIGGAS! when i walk into
a room & be greeted with
warm dark that be the city
in the good arms of homies, little
bridges that clasped black hands
make, or how my nigga Josh place
his head against my head, how we
almost wear each other as crowns
ain’t that it? niggas make me royal
not like king queen, but like we
the court, like we all a diaspora
of knights at the table of our blood
with no king but our blood
like we the whole dang castle itself
& my skin brick & moat & arrows
pointed at the distance ready
to protect the two g’s of my body
& the g’s that made me
& the g’s they came from

 

Copyright 2017 by Danez Smith. All rights reserved.

&
See two more poems by Smith debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: “fat one, with the switch” and “For the Dead Homie.”


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompts

by Danez Smith

stare so long they gotta growl
faggot to justify it. that f-sound
just an excuse to bite they lips.
dicks hard as consonants in dickies.
question mark thick, you fuck they head up.
damn desire that sneaks you into laundry rooms
strikes you in the street out of fear of itself.
they disrupt themselves with your body
& call it your fault, bury you in night
but darkness is temporary dirt.
with the sun comes the news of you.
another.           another.
i wanted to write an ode. it still could be.
but first, a little silence for the ones
hurried into after cause some dude
felt his blood rush on sight
& it was the first time he knew he had blood.
not even the razor taught him that
not his daughter’s birth
not his clotted mammy, not Christ.
just like a man. he saw god
& instinct told him kill it.

 

Copyright 2017 by Danez Smith. All rights reserved.

&
See two more poems by Smith debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: “niggas” and “For the Dead Homie.”


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompts

by Danez Smith

bury me under your heft of titles
love who makes me rude to other loves
love who make me like me like me
rose sweet chemical in the blood
tender wind that makes the brain blush
storm that scares the storm away
in me—a monument to your fray
in you—a trap door back to myself
before holy there was your grace
Christ of the random Wednesday
a world without you is not a world
thy terrain & bounty include my hands
my main. brighter light in a room of light
when you went I choked the dirt

//

when you went I choked on dirt
i ate my way to Australia, i smoked
i bent the night around my shoulders
i dressed in headlights & sirens
i thought about it, i put the pills back
i burned the medicine cabinet, burned
the house, burned the city, burned
the last years down cinders & drank
yes I drank them down, i wanted to be
bloated with fact: you are not
a thing I can touch, a voice i can call
a shot at the bar, a shot at making it big
but didn’t you? didn’t you make it big, fam?
aren’t you all of it now? i call for God.
i call for God but out comes your name

//

i call for God & out comes your name
& then your blood next, wraps its weight
around your christening. next, bone
colored seeds plant themselves in you
& become bones, bloom fields of muscle
& organs for orchids, little dandelions
that dry into skin. next come seeds
for your eyes, a seed for your voice
seed that makes you dance, a seed
that looks like your mother, and a boy
a boy comes flying right out my mouth
burrows root prayer into your chest
& had he always been there? the boy
beautiful & waiting for someone to see?

//

beautiful & waiting by some sea
purple with the waves of your laugh
your frequency somewhere between
sound & light, bright note singing dawn
to make it to you would be a Mecca.
somewhere, you are city with a boy
in every window, calling down to me
i call back, our voices fat the air
with nectarines, you laugh so hard
you become the wind & every ribbon it holds
your body is all silk & all air, you are in my hair
you are an opal braid, an amethyst twist
give me that kind of heaven—I’ll breathe
you in, you nourish & strangle

//

i breathe you. in you, i nourish. strangle
your name out my mouth if you could
but you are a smoke I can swallow, fire
rich with something thicker, honey begat
by flames, the wet of burned skin.
your name is honeydew glass. i hunger
& bleed for it, cough up burgundy mercies
for it, but it’s always true the same way:
my nigga is gone. he took himself away
from himself, he flung himself higher
than the oldest light i know, light so old
it’s gone from where it started & is seen
only light years from here. it’s true, a star
withers here, blooms up in a further sky.

//

“withers here, blooms up in a further sky.”
that’s pretty right? what happened isn’t pretty.
i was ugly with your going. i had its bad teeth
& scabs, heaving up dark, my skin clotting
then becoming like black tumbleweeds.
i was a hollow block, a ghost hood
where liquor tips itself sideways
bleeds out in memory of hands.
over the toilet, nothing left to leave me
but sound. i was not ready to be your witness
i broke like champagne against your vessel.
but to see your mother, to see her hold that
unwanted knowledge of your ark body
she was a fish caught in the blades

//

your ark body, your fish body, your summer
everything, your royal radius, your bleeding yes
the verb your name makes, so much
to smile about in spite of that final data.
in your honor, i plant an acre of blue
a bouquet of collards held in place by my fro
here I sing a hymn made of chamomile
& kush, sing So you won’t be lonely & my body
is a wall so thin you could miss it
so wide it cuts the world in half
& out the light you stumble
touch yourself gently &

enough.

 

Copyright 2017 by Danez Smith. All rights reserved.

&
See two more poems by Smith debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: “fat one, with the switch” and “niggas.”


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay | Writing Prompts

by Gregory Pardlo

Pardlo cover _200px
Vol. 1, Iss. 1 | Gregory Pardlo | Summer 2017

Lexington Avenue tugged the bus to Easthampton
out of reach each time I neared it having missed
its stop at 77th, and chased it to the next one

which I hoped would be 69th at first but had to bet
on 66th when traffic cleared and I saw its brake lights
squint, swamped again by traffic, almost evanesced,

but I kept running as if some prior self that I despised
was on my heels, nostalgic for my undoing, but it wouldn’t,
the bus, that is, in fact stop until the stop at 59th, 

after I slalomed bodies under that Hunter College
jet bridge, and past the loading bay of the Park Avenue
Armory where men rigged what looked like giant cages—

I almost stopped to ask—in a mist that sheened
my rucksack plus the duffel I had packed because
there’s no night bus back to Manhattan, and I’d planned

to give a reading at the college way out there where it was
more like New England than New York but then I
guess New York is technically New England if we’re honest,

I mean, especially Easthampton where I stayed
in an eighteenth century farmhouse restored
punctiliously by this owner-guy who thanked

his stars, he said, for the nation’s new administration,
but the farm, he said, with some reluctance and suspicion,
may once have harbored runaways, you know,

from before the Civil War, and I thought to ask him why
he’d hide such lore behind that shibboleth of history,
but thought again like maybe it was impolite or petty,

so I harbored in my head the weary travelers chasing
emancipation that by nature had to lurch just out of reach
each time it got dangerously close to revealing

itself as the mere abstraction that it is, the facts
of their lives become projections of my own in that
I may have caught the coach that moseyed down Lex

as if it were the very pachyderm of time itself,
but there’s still a bus-shaped desire that shrieks through
my mental like Williams’s figure 5 compelled

through rain and lights, and leaves a vacant perforation
that reflects the way I want to be loved, that is,
with alacrity and perhaps a little desperation.

 

Copyright 2017 by Gregory Pardlo. All rights reserved.

&
See two more poems by Pardlo debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: “Metaphor” and “Convertible.”


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay| Writing Prompts

by Gregory Pardlo

Pardlo cover _200px
Vol. 1, Iss. 1 | Gregory Pardlo | Summer 2017

My pop let me steer when I was small
enough to snug between his belly and the wheel.
Any random intersection, he might hoist
me across the hand brake onto his lap to pilot
the carnival ride until he’d put me in my place
to stay until my arms were useful enough to
steer while he lit a smoke or shed his jacket.
Sun set over the Turnpike like a burst capillary.
In time, I learned to boss the road alone.
He texted days before he died,
to say that when a Roman general conquered
someplace cool, Caesar would send a slave
to ride beside him in the victory parade,
and tell the general to “remember you are
only a man.”

His ashes arrived in a cardboard carton with
shipping labels and barcode, heavy enough
to trigger the seat belt alarm as we clipped home,
honeysuckle in the air, from the post office.
Any normal person would have put the box
on the floor, but I—you know already, don’t you?
I held him in my lap. “You’re mine,” I told
the box of dad dust, lifting my hands occasionally
to the wind, tempting the evening with our
contraption of flesh and steel.

 

Copyright 2017 by Gregory Pardlo. All rights reserved.
&
See two more poems Pardlo debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle:Metaphor” and “Supernatural Bread.”


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay| Writing Prompts

by Gregory Pardlo

Pardlo cover _200px
Vol. 1, Iss. 1 | Gregory Pardlo | Summer 2017

“If we cannot distinguish tenor from vehicle,
then we may provisionally take the word to be literal.”
—I. A. Richards

It means to transfer or carry, “carry on with your
bad self,” my father would probably add, inflating
the definition to a conceit. I once thought my father was,
in the sense that means to hamper or impede,
an embarrassment, which is, returning to the matter
at hand, a metaphor, but I can’t say what is being
carried or by what agent. Richards says a metaphor
consists of a tenor and a vehicle. My father would
point out, just to fuck with him, that Richards is using
a metaphor to define metaphors, a literalization,
like when Richards asks if a wooden leg is a metaphor
when someone has a wooden leg. My late father,
Gregory Pardlo, Sr., lost his leg to diabetes. How un-
like himself he worked to match the prosthesis to his
skin tone! This is the same guy who gave me
a Hot Wheels car for Christmas. A joke, see. He’d promised
me a car when I turned sixteen. It shimmers on my
desk now, a gaudy muse with shark’s teeth decals behind
the wheel well. Before he died, I told him I would have
preferred a Matchbox car packaged in an actual matchbox,
literalizing the figurative commingling of tenor and vehicle,
more metonym than metaphor, a pedigree, in other words.
He told me to get the stick out of my ass. Greg Pardlo
is dead. Long live Greg Pardlo, with your bad self.

 

Copyright 2017 by Gregory Pardlo. All rights reserved.
&
See two more poems Pardlo debuted on The Fight & The Fiddle: “Convertible” and “Supernatural Bread.”


Read more in this issue: Interview | Critical Essay| Writing Prompts