Skip to Content

[Untitled]

By Alexis Smithers

Standing in line, waiting to go into the Library of Congress
a black woman stands two people ahead of me and
a white security guard says to her,
It’s a beautiful day.

She nods, Yes, it is.
and turns to the front.

He does not move.

He says, If it’s such a beautiful day,
why aren’t you smiling?

She does not answer and the white people in line
do not notice
but she and I,
we hold our breaths and stand
very still.

The guard walks closer
into her
space and demands,
Smile.

She does not.

In the silence, we hear blood
staining the concrete steps.

Smile.

She does not.

No one will pull a weapon
fast enough to stop what
already happen(ed)(s)

Smile.

She does not.

I don’t know how to turn on my
camera fast enough
to keep the truth from unravelling
from the lie laced white lips.

Smile.

She does not.

He looks around.
Remembers
there are other white people
here.

Decides not
today.

We still are not breathing.  

The line moves.

I marvel at the black woman ahead
of me.
to be that brave
while holding your breath
to be that truth in the face
of threaten
your ruin to gather strength
and shoot it through your bones

those who don’t know 
call it magic
and it does wonder
but only if you haven’t been
paying attention.

 


 

 

Listen as Alexis Smithers reads "[Untitled]."

Added: Monday, March 30, 2020  /  Used with permission.
Alexis Smithers

Alexis Smithers is black autistic nonbinary writer and dog trainer. They are a 2015 Pink Door Fellow, 2016 Lambda Literary Emerging Writer in Young Adult Fiction, and a former staff writer for Autostraddle. They've been published in wudgood.black, Freezeray Poetry, and Glass: Poetry among others. You can find more of their work at youhavethewritetoremember.net.

Other poems by this author