Author: Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib is from Columbus, Ohio. He is the author of Sons Of Noah, a chapbook forthcoming from Tired Hearts Press in 2014. His poems have been featured in Muzzle, Radius, Vinyl, Freezeray, joINT, and Borderline. He can also be found on Twitter.

The Author Writes The First Draft Of His Wedding Vows

(An erasure of Virginia Woolf’s suicide letter to her husband, Leonard)
I feel certain I am going mad again.

 we will go through                                terrible times. And                recover . I
begin to hear your voice, and    can’t          concentrate.  So I am
doing what seems

will give me the greatest possible happiness.

I don’t think two people could                           have been happier with this disease. I
  that without       you                I   can’t             properly    feel . What I want to say is
You                  have

saved me.
Everything has gone from me
but the certainty of your goodness.

At My First Punk Show Ever, 1998

me & tyler jump into the pit head first even though four older boys got patches that say NO BLACKS & NO QUEERS & between us I guess we got both those covered cuz I flinch & throw my hands over my head when the drum kicks too sharp & I don’t know what could be more black than that & tyler don’t know it but in an alley last month I saw him build a church in the mouth of a boy from cross town who don’t talk to nobody & don’t come ‘round the hood unless he thirsty for a tithe but we up in the pit anyway ‘cuz it ain’t the 70’s anymore what I mean is there ain’t a war always on television what I mean is we came here to see blood like all boys who sneak past their sleeping fathers & crawl out of windows before running into the night with ripped jeans & ain’t all blood the same when bodies get hurled like they in a cheap amusement park ride & some blond girl from bexley gets slick & tries to sneak into the rampage but not before tyler & some other boy grab her by the collar & toss her smooth out & then they high five & through the guitar bending over our heads like an umbrella I hear tyler whisper some things are just unacceptable & then his whole body begins to shake & I tell myself it can only be laughter

If It Is The Summer Of 2009

And you are in a car with more bodies
inside than the number of doors outside and “Party In The U.S.A.”
comes on the radio, everyone sings along. We do not discuss this. It just happens
even when the a/c doesn’t work and the sun rummages through
your skin searching for something to claim and split
open, or even when inside of this wet and rusting machine,
carried through your family like a sickness,
your hand brushes up against the hand you were too
shy to pull onto the dance floor while some band squeezed one
more encore out of the night, singing along to “Party In The U.S.A.”
with the windows down is some non-negotiable shit.
Even if you have to hit the cruise control on an empty highway
to close your eyes and throw your head back on a high note,
these are the sacrifices a generation like ours must make.
No one pretends that they do not know the words
like this song, this sweet and heavy meal did not arrive
 in the stomachs of kids like us, pleading for a heaving escape
into some night we will bookmark for when we are holding babies and craving nostalgia.
Everybody sings every word, even Jason who is so punk rock he bleeds
on everything
so punk rock he is almost always playing dead
 a trick he learned when we were boys and the bar
down on Livingston cut his father off way before last call
and there were no more things for a man to break
in his own home except for the bones of something
that reminded him of himself.
We all sing, though the singing cannot forgive our youth
for being a storm cloud,
cannot conjure the shell of any home where our mothers are still
breathing and slow dancing with the breeze in the family room.
Sing because it is good to own something in this country
it is good to let something pass through your mouth
and blend with other voices that maybe know the kind of loss
you carry or at least they will by the time we get to the second chorus
or the end of the song altogether
or however long it takes for the sun to have its fill of us
and leave town
 everything in its wake a puddle we revel in long enough to forget
that we are black in our 20’s which is to say that we are too old
for this shit
and by this shit I of course mean living
I of course mean that we have carried the lifeless bodies of enough younger brothers to never forget that we should be dead by now
we should have the decency to unburden America
by our dying on the side of a cracked road
and maybe this explains the silence that grows ripe in a car
pulled over on I-71 at 2 a.m. with no one in
sight but us and four police officers who took
our lane-swerving joy for inebriation or worse and
the knowing of what we may leave behind when we step out
 of a car,
how there are so many ways to demand
raised hands even after the party ends,
when screams cut into a night now so gutted it can only be
a casket where
even wrecked by our trembling, we know to
 oblige everything
after all
They’re playing our song.