Blackbird or stone

Nailah Mathews

In conversation with Hughie Lee-Smith’s ‘Rooftop’ 1957

© Estate of Hughie Lee-Smith / Licensed by VAGA at ARS, NY

A black man in a white shirt on the rooftop of a pale blue day


       with red brick and white water tower and silver grey spires.

His compositional properties are:

                                      Oil on Masonite

                                      His isolation

                                      His blackness

                                      The wind

                                      That breath you take before starting

                                                                   a conversation.

Where does loneliness sit in you? Mine is high in my throat, a fluttering, anxious thing. It can

hear your breezes, buffeting the brick off the wall.

                                                                               Tell me.

Is he going to


Nailah Mathews is a nonbinary Black poet to whom books and black lives matter, who aspires to be as kind to every stranger as they would be to a lost child. Their piece “Hanlon’s Razor” will appear in Tilde~A Literary Journal’s Issue V. They can be reached at for inquiries.

Issue 1

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