I am one of the innocents
slaughtered by a world
that never heard stories we told
and songs we sang.
I know the rage of night,
but you needn’t wonder or worry.
I am safe and strong,
not a black boy shattered
by the weight of hate,
the one who became vapor
in the twilight of day.
I am sounds stirring
cool, spring air, the ones
you can never name.
I am a mist of blinding fog,
faces of clouds,
and the whir of birds soaring.
I am not a memory or phantom.
I am not flesh, bone, or dust.
I am invisible but real,
like a bud in the garden
of your children’s dreams.
I don’t remember
my mother and father,
how I became Glass,
but I know that I am Darron,
broken yet whole.
Author’s note: Darron Glass, a foster child, is the only victim
of the Atlanta Child Murders whose body was never found.
—Published previously in Our Shut Eyes: New & Selected Poems on Race
in America (MadHat Press, 2019) by John Warner Smith; appears here with his
began writing poetry while building a successful career as a public administrator and a banker. He is the author of five collections of poetry: Our Shut Eyes: New & Selected Poems on Race in America (MadHat Press, 2019), Muhammad’s Mountain (Lavender Ink, 2018), Spirits of the Gods (University of Louisiana Press, 2017), Soul Be A Witness (MadHat Press, 2016), and A Mandala of Hands (Kelsay Books; Aldrich Press, 2015). His first book-length manuscript was a finalist in the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award competition.
Smith’s poems have appeared in American Athenaeum, Antioch Review, Bloodroot Literary Magazine, Callaloo, Kestrel, North American Review, Ploughshares, Quiddity, Transition, Tupelo Quarterly, The Worcester Review, and numerous other literary journals. His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for the Sundress Best of the Net Anthology.
A Cave Canem Fellow, Smith earned his MFA in Creative Writing at the University of New Orleans. He was awarded the 2019 Linda Hodge Bromberg Poetry Award. In August 2019, he was appointed to a two-year term as Poet Laureate of Louisiana by Governor John Bel Edwards. In 2020, Smith was awarded a fellowship by the Academy of American Poets.
Author’s website: http://johnwarnersmith.com/
⚡ “Interview: John Warner Smith, Poet Laureate of Louisiana:
The state’s former Secretary of Labor is now its Poet Laureate,”
by Skye Jackson in French Quarter Journal (26 March 2020)
Two Poems plus poet’s Commentary in Issue 8 of KYSO
Flash (August 2017), from Smith’s third collection, Spirits of the
Gods, which was inspired by the paintings of Dennis Paul Williams