What the Ocean Said to the Black Boy // Clint Smith

What Became by Jhaki M.S. Landgrebe

You know how to swim, boy?
I know you can float;
felt you bobbing along my surface
before you even knew you could.

They say you just a conflagration
of bad intentions, boy.
Use me to put you out.
Don't want you burning this place down


They see
a little too much L’Ouverture in you,
a little too much Turner,
a little too much of what they already had enough of.

What you see when you look at me?
You know how many of y'all I swallowed?
You just a drop of ink
on this canvas,


They call me blue because
they don't understand how the sky work.
They call you black because
they don't understand how God work.

But today
I'm still blue,
you still black.

Clint Smith is a teacher, writer, and doctoral candidate at Harvard University. He is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion, an Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, and has served a cultural ambassador for the U.S. Department of State. He has performed at the 2015 TED Conference, the U.S. Department of Education, and the IB Conference of the Americas. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Still: The Journal, Off the Coast, Winter Tangerine Review, Harvard Educational Review and elsewhere. He was born and raised in New Orleans, LA.

Jhaki M.S. Landgrebe is an accidental teacher by trade and an artist and writer by otherwise. Her birthplace in the Midwest was a conservative start to a life of wander. She’s recently settled down and commutes between Sweden and South Dakota. Her artwork and publications can be found at jhakijhaki.com.