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Summer
2008

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The Day Before What Could Be The Day
Patricia Smith

Because he’s surrounded by chattering back-slappers, insistent reporters
and various white folk measuring his words for hollows, no one can hear
his fervently whispered “Fuck this.” No one sees his shoulders strengthen,
or notices as his step quickens in the other direction of everything.
He’s weary of being a commodity, an officially sanctioned next big thing,
the straight-edged Negro tap-dancing toward a raucous limelight.
They’ve even forced him to bad-mouth a preacher, and now he’s sure
that God has abandoned him, left him to wallow in a particular sin
while glittering sound bytes and a steady diet of national numbers
become his new religion. He’s so uncertain of his throat now.

All across his beloved America, from edge to sweet edge, men
are crouched over basement tables, celebrating the thinness of his skin.
They conjure plans to snatch his children and bury them both, gasping,
in some untumbled box of earth. They want to tug at Michelle’s
hair, pull her head back and slide a hot blade across her neck.
They plot and graph, congregate and argue, approximate the arc
of firepower, knit wires for explosives, and standing here, now,
he can hear the dark buzz of their planning. Someone will try to kill him.
And today, he says Bring it on. At least the not knowing where or when
is something, something other than being shoved so hard toward history,
and realizing as he gets closer, Damn if this ain’t the back door.