what was said at the bus stop

By Danez Smith

lately has been a long time
says the girl from Pakistan, Lahore to be specific
at the bus stop when the white man
ask her where she’s from & then
says oh, you from Lahore?
it’s pretty bad over there lately.

lately has been a long time
she says & we look at each other & the look says
yes, i too wish dude would stop
asking us about where we from

but on the other side of our side eyes
is maybe a hand where hands do no good
a look to say, yes, i know lately has been
a long time for your people too
& i’m sorry the world is so good at making
us feel like we have to fight for space
to fight for our lives

“solidarity” is a word, a lot of people say it
i’m not sure what it means in the flesh
i know i love & have cried for my friends
their browns a different brown than mine
i’ve danced their dances when taught
& tasted how their mothers miracle the rice
different than mine. i know sometimes
i can’t see beyond my own pain, past black
& white, how bullets love any flesh.
i know it’s foolish to compare.
what advice do the drowned have for the burned?
what gossip is there between the hanged & the buried?

& i want to reach across our great distance
that is sometimes an ocean & sometimes centimeters
& say, look. your people, my people, all that has happened
to us & still make love under rusted moons, still pull
children from the mothers & name them
still teach them to dance & your pain is not mine
& is no less & is mine & i pray to my god your god
blesses you with mercy & i have tasted your food & understand
how it is a good home & i don’t know your language
but i understand your songs & i cried when they came
for your uncles & when you buried your niece
i wanted the world to burn in the child’s brief memory
& still, still, still, still, still, still, still, still, still
& i have stood by you in the soft shawl of morning
waiting & breathing & waiting

Danez Smith, “what was said at the bus stop” from Homie. Copyright © 2020 by Danez Smith. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC, on behalf of Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org.