I DREAM OF A DARKER PLANET
DARNELL "DEESOUL" CARSON
After Danez Smith
The summer is a whole year long, a festival of cookouts and family reunions and chasing down ice cream trucks, running back to momma with all her change. We will see smoke and not think of our destruction, just our fathers on their favorite grills, making sure a few of the links are just a little burnt for Uncle Keith and Cousin Teresa. You know how they like it done. The Wobble, or the Cupid Shuffle, or any of the other billion line dances we’ve memorized like a spiritual will come on, and we will grumble and force our friends to join us. It is always golden hour; we have always looked this good. A baby will be crying, as babies do, and all the mothers and aunties will say, Girl, let that baby cry, it don’t bother us none, and it doesn’t. Aunt Mary made that lemon pound cake we’ve been craving all year, and now my soul is rested. I think this is how rapture tastes. We reach for Black folks and find them waiting, not some trailing shadow of their absence. We have always been safe here. Every precinct that once was is now a community garden. We have never needed policing. Momma tells me she has given every mother permission to snatch me up if I act a fool. Imagine being loved so much. We look up at the sky and say What a beautiful day it is to be alive, and we mean it.
1 And my father says unto me, “Do not cry or I’ll give you
something to cry about,” and behold,
2 the tear crawls back into the tear duct,
unbirthed. My cheeks remain dry as
3 a valley of bones. Now, I do not cry,
especially when there is someone to witness it,
4 not when I stub my toe or when I am frustrated
or when the name at the end of the hashtag sounds familiar,
like someone I used to know or would’ve known or could’ve been.
5 The world is nothing but somethings to cry about, and I see
how my father, in all his toxic, was just trying to prepare me.
6 And my mother says unto me, “When we get in this store,
you better not touch nothing,” and already my hands are receding.
7 Momma knows as much as anyone that anything in Black hands
can be a death sentence, a BB gun or Arizona or pack of Skittles.
8 The key to survival, I learn later, is to keep your palms open
and seen and hope to God this enough to be passed over.
9 And my auntie says unto me “You gonna be inside or outside,
but you’re not gonna be in and outside my house”
10 and so we spend the rest of the day on the front porch,
running and yelling and arguing and seeing how close
we can get to sunset before somebody tells us to get inside.
11 I almost don’t notice the way my father scans the street
every time he calls us in for dinner, how he counts all
the neighbor’s kids to make sure they are still there,
12 still screaming about seeing each other tomorrow.
Listen to Darnell read "I Dream of a Darker Planet" and "Hood Proverbs" below:
DARNELL "DEESOUL" CARSON (he/they) is a Black queer poet, performer, and educator from San Diego, CA, Co-Director of the award-winning Stanford Spoken Word Collective, and Editorial Assistant at the Adroit Journal. A two-time CUPSI finalist, his work has been featured or forthcoming on Write About Now Poetry and Button Poetry, and in The Adroit Journal, The Unified Anthology, The Oakland Arts Review, and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing a degree in Cultural/Social Psychology with a minor in Creative Writing at Stanford University, where he has also led two-quarter long poetry workshop courses.