Justin Danzy

Read the introduction by guest editor Diane Seuss.

You will not surely die


I know what I saw with my own eyes.
My grandmother died on our kitchen floor,

then pulled her corpse up to smoke a cigarette

on the back porch before consenting to being
zipped up in a bodybag and whisked away

in an ambulance. At the funeral, I suspected

the coffin would be empty, though it was not empty.
The cheeks were inflated, painted black

under white under red like minstrelsy. The hand’s claws

were trimmed to unthreatening lengths. The wig
too modern, gown too gaudy. The grave clothes

obscured her, though the truth was plain. This body

was not her body, yet we played along. Cousin John
waltzed to the apex of the dimly lit funeral home,

reached a finger behind his sunglasses and

flung a tear towards the body of the impostor.
Uncle Ed freestyled a hymn before cartwheeling

back to his seat. Aunt Kim climbed in the coffin,

cozied up to the fraud, begged someone, anyone
to nail the lid closed. You should have seen it, the certainty

with which we performed, the after party

where we played spades, the men bulbous
with beer, the women dizzy off moscato.

You should have seen it, our mockery

of what death propagates is final, our carrying on
into the deepest seam of night

as if our devotion could coax

our grief out of hiding.



Everything is smoke, Solomon says


in Ecclesiastes when trying to understand the meaning of meaning all is smoke that’s all he could come up with despite being the wisest man to ever live though I dispute this since my grandma discovered the same with an unreliable mind she too talked to a man she could not see promised him half a corned beef sandwich and a pack of cigarette butts if he took her to cash her next Social Security check he said he’d come right now if she threw in a Faygo cola to which she said okay she grabbed her wig and winter coat and sat on the front porch where she waited for the man to appear in his bumbling van she sat there with check in hand cigarette rolling along her gums she puffed smoke in her eyes and scanned the sun-soaked street waiting for the unseen’s solid expanse to arrive



I’ve walked many miles in wrong belief


This isn’t the place for fear.
I thought this while lying on my back

in a village where galaxies blinked

in the unimpeded night. It used to be
much better, said the man who brought me here.

He knew no English, but listened to country music

while weaving between potholes
on once-paved roads. We bought

bleeding chicken from kids

who stuck fistfuls of skewers
in the window when we stopped to get gas.

In the morning, I walked into town and met a boy

who looked like me in pictures before I learned
to feel shame—

Stop. Of course I’m romanticizing this boy

and the man I paid 200,000 shillings
to leave his family and be my chauffeur for the week.

What else did you expect from me?

After the housegirl made me dinner, I walked to the top
of Namasuba. I sat at the cliff’s edge as children behind me

herded goats like David. Beneath me, in the distance,

cars yo-yoed back and forth on Entebbe Road. People filled
the spaces as traffic expanded and compressed.

I studied the road, its length, and my eyes watered.

My eyes watered, and I wanted to be home.

Justin Danzy is a Chancellor’s Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis where he is completing his MFA. He has work forthcoming in Guesthouse and The New Guard Review. Danzy is from Southfield, Michigan.