Clint Smith

Ode to the Only Black Kid in the Class

You, it seems,
are the manifestation
of several lifetimes
of toil. Brown v. Board
in flesh. Most days
the classroom feels
like an antechamber.
You are deemed expert
on all things Morrison,
King, Malcolm, Rosa.
Hell, weren’t you sitting
on that bus, too?
You are every-
body’s best friend
until you are not.
Hip-hop lyricologist.
Presumed athlete.
Free & Reduced sideshow.
Exception and caricature.
Too black and too white
all at once. If you are
successful it is because
of affirmative action.
If you fail it is because
you were destined to.
You are invisible until
they turn on the Friday
night lights. Here you are
star before they render
you asteroid. Before they
watch you turn to dust.

Author Portrait

Clint Smith is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University and has received fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. He is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion and was a speaker at the 2015 TED Conference. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in American Literary Review, Harvard Educational Review, Mason’s Road, Off the Coast, and elsewhere. He was born and raised in New Orleans, LA.