“Incendiary Art: Birmingham, 1963”

Patricia Smith

For avery r. young

Baby girls boom. Baby girls blow
and burn, skin balloons, booms.
Baby girls burn, boom. The Lord
dangles, festive and helpless.
Hymnals blacken while brown
baby girls pucker, leak. Blood jells,
muddles pigtail, makes lace stiff.
Baby girls blacken, crackle
in the vague direction of His hands
nailed still. Baby brown girl bodies
gap wide, wider, char and shut.

patricia-smithPATRICIA SMITH is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, a collaboration with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson. Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, Life According to Motown; the children’s book Janna and the Kings and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her writing has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Washington Post, and The New York Times and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, and Best American Mystery Stories. She co-edited The Golden Shovel Anthology—New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir.

From Incendiary Art, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. ©2017 by Northwestern University Press

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