John Warner Smith


after Warsan Shire

Your son is dumb, a nobody,
without honor, country or history.
Talk to him.
The books he reads do not.

Have you not told him
life is mean but fair,
God created the stars, wind and sea
and slave ships passed,
God parted the sea
and slave masters drowned?

So what, that your son’s belly
bears the marks of your teeth
and blunt edges of your fist.
So what, that his father is a ravaging wolf.
Your son is a shark
with no reverence for life,
not even his own.
Does he not know
that no loving outstretched arms,
no prayer, salt or grail will save him?

Fathers tell their daughters
to not go near him,
not let his words be pomegranates
or the soft-drip thaw of ice on the myrtles.
They tell their daughters
your son grows like a reed in the wind
and dreams only when he sleeps.
Talk to your son.
Tell him what it means to be a man.

Why the blindfolding fog
between his hand on a trigger
and the barb-wired walls
that will bend his knees?
Why the gorge
between his head and heart?
Can you not fill that hole in him?

Have you not told him
how he could sail the ship
that bounds and carries him,
and he needs no stars, moon or lighthouse
for the rogue waves
and swirling forked strait?
Does he not know
he can bend rivers, storm the palisade
and take back his soul?