19 pages 38 minutes read

Danez Smith

It won’t be a bullet

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2017

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Symbols & Motifs

Light and Moon

Smith uses several metaphors in the poem “it won’t be a bullet” to convey ideas about life and death. They include “a bullet / becoming a little moon” (Title and Line 1) and “until light outweighs us, & we become it” (Line 9).

These two metaphors suggest the cosmic binaries between light and dark. Since time immemorial the moon, sun, stars, and other bodies have been used in poetry to suggest a higher being that is eternal and all-seeing. Because these celestial bodies exist above the Earth, they have a vantage point that allows them supreme vision and the power to illuminate the darkness. The moon can further be a symbol of bringing knowledge in a time of ignorance because it reflects light in the night sky. Likewise, the term “light” can imply a multitude of positive cosmic interventions—God, the soul, benevolence, or the bestowing of “enlightenment.” Conversely, darkness can imply ignorance, evil, or deep aloneness.

The way Smith uses light in “it won’t be a bullet,” saying that they will “become” light (Line 9) as they grow “thinner & thinner & thinner” (Line 8), suggests that death and dying is a spiritual act. As the speaker of the poem gets closer to death, they also get closer to the cosmic and the all-knowing.