a note on Vaseline to my 13 year old self
learn to praise the wet music of frantic palms
plastic toilet cushion & shiny fingers
your eyes shut, rebuilding how Sherrie bent
over in math or how Latrell walked around
after gym class, his underwear too small
& brand new manhood undeniable. praise
that eternal tub of grease. it’s been the same
empty but not empty your whole life.
this very same Vaseline you’re using to polish
your favorite body part was used by your mama
to slick her face the day Ms. Lorelle from over
on Hague St. called her a frog-eyed bitch
back in ‘78, same grease Auntie B used to make
a disco-ball of her small, brown mouth when she
decided it was time to put it on Earl at the skating rink.
This same family-sized tub has been young with all
your elders, has soothed your grandpa’s gout
& cousin’s cracked elbows, all Grandma’s fryer burns
& Friday night bruises. praise that petroleum.
how oily & blessed the space between your fingers,
how the supple blade between thumb & index
sends you to the cores of stars with its brief, slimy drum,
remember this fleeting grip when men use the stuff
to prepare you for their want, when they leave you
throbbing, tender, & whistling with the wrong mouth,
all your bones replaced by yokes. you will never have enough
spit, & this is how the men will want you always: a twitching
tunnel of left hands, a slug slime slick of a man.
As of 2014: Danez Smith is a Cave Canem & VONA Fellow living between St. Paul, MN and Oakland, CA. They are the recipient of a McKnight Fellowship, the winner of the 2014 Reading Series Contest sponsored by The Paris-American, and were featured in The Academy of American Poets’ Emerging Poets Series by Patricia Smith. Their chapbook, hands on ya knees, was published in 2013 by Penmanship Books. They are the 2-time champion of the Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam and a Individual World Poetry Slam finalist. Their writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Magazine, Ploughshares, Indiana Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.