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.

About 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.

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