Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib




truly, I am sorry
for the mess this makes
oh, darling
if everywhere is a grave
the dying becomes more convenient
my pal jonah locked eyes
with someone pretty
from across the room
on the night after
we buried his mother
and fresh dirt crawled
out of the walls
on a Saturday, I watch the lives of lovers
slowly become tethered to eternity
while I pick out something in Ikea
that will arrive to me broken
and aching for a fight
one hundred different pieces
that I will stare at
and throw the hammer into
until something becomes whole
this, the scene in the movie
that you watch from
between your mother’s fingers
while the sound of two people
building something from dust
shakes the walls around you
leaving you no longer innocent






soon, it will only be me and the ones that lumber through the mud, carrying themselves from one nap to
the next. They may not even be spared. I am sorry for all of the driving. I don’t want to destroy the earth,
but there is no city that takes kindly to my footsteps when the moon is out. I imagine a flood will be the
way this planet finally gives up on us. Waves unwriting a city while the hands of children reach for what
they will soon know to be heaven. The man on the news says the world is as hot as it has ever been. He
says everything is melting. I measure the heat by how many niggas in the hood get buried. I never stop
sweating. I wear shorts when it snows. My father asks if I’ve learned how to swim.






the cup of beer, dancing on the table’s edge for twenty minutes, was finally granted its falling permission by
the arm swung down on the table’s wooden face during the intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit & we only put
that record on because Matt said I don’t wanna hear none of that black shit tonight when I put in the new Jay-Z,
cuz it just dropped this week & I turned on the news in Ohio & all of New York was on fire & I copped
the cd with the money my pops gave me for groceries & I didn’t eat for two days but Matt said he don’t
wanna hear none of that black shit tonight
& he means he doesn’t want to hear anything about hunger & at least
he looks at me and says no offense & I shake with a forced laugh & I look down and see my skin falling from
my hands until they are a shade lighter & me and Jimi are the only things black in this room & Jimi isn’t
alive, Jimi is hung over the mantle, Jimi is all guitar and no face, or I can see Jimi’s face, but no one else can
& the spilled beer has grown limbs & it is conquering the land & it is multiplying in size every second &
creating new children & they all have mouths, swallow or be swallowed & the parties on this side of town
are so killer & Kurt says with the lights out, it’s less dangerous & I imagine the it is everything & I am invisible with
the lights out, I am invisible with the lights on sometimes, I walk into the sun and become nothing & the
same song has played eight times now & the spilled beer is now up to our waists & no one comes here to
dance anyway & it is either never really about the songs or it is only about the songs & nothing else & have
I mentioned that Jimi is black & have I mentioned that America became a nest of funerals in the morning
before I sacrificed a meal for a song & isn’t this all history, something wet rising at our feet & a song to
make you forget the burning & a boy rendering us invisible with his mouth & god, the parties on this side
of town are so






Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. He is a poetry editor at Muzzle Magazine, a columnist at MTV News, and a Callaloo creative writing fellow. His first collection of poems, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, is being released in 2016 by Button Poetry/Exploding Pinecone Press.