If you think you know enough to say this poem
is about good hair, I’ll correct you
and tell you it’s about history
which is the blacksmith of our tongues.
Our eyes. Where you see misunderstanding
I see knuckles and teeth for sale
in a storefront window. I see the waterlogged
face of the fourteen-year-old boy.
The bullet’s imperceptible sizzle
toward an unarmed man. And as you ask me to sign the book
that is not mine, your gaze shifting between
me and the author’s photo, whispering,
but that’s not you? I do not
feel sorry for you. No. I think only that when a man
is a concept he will tell you about the smell
of smoke. He will tell you the distance
between heartbreak and rage.
Ross Gay, “Within Two Weeks the African American Poet Ross Gay Is Mistaken for Both the African American Poet Terrance Hayes and the African American Poet Kyle Dargan, Not One of Whom Looks Anything Like the Others” from Bringing the Shovel Down.  Copyright © 2011 by Ross Gay.  All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: Bring the Shovel Down(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011)

Ross Gay

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