Hanif Abdurraqib


And they will probably
tell you
it could always
be worse.
I mean
have you seen
all of the things
Louisiana has swelled
with since the coast held
open your jaw and
scrubbed the South clean
out the back of your throat
like the washing of another
dead thing
before it is lowered
into the earth and
eventually forgotten?
Water rises and licks
the edges of
every levee.
Makes a lover of them.
Threatens everything.
The cows have stopped
making milk again.
They watch the violently breaking
waves and tremble in
knee-high grass and
now the men have no
jobs. Nothing to do with
their hands. I think this is
how wars begin or
how women end up
peeling their skin
out of checkered skirts
and red leather
wondering where
their childhood went.
How a body can be both
too young and too old
for a country that has
gorged itself on these
fantasies until its edges distend
like a drowned animal.
On television,
we watched you taste
an enemy on the tongue
of an idol
and I wondered how often I have
done the same without knowing.
I haven't swallowed anything
in years.
I need to know how
you survive. Especially when
the land has only discovered
new hungers.
All you have to do is
give them your hair
and they may finally ask you
to stop dancing. Harvest
some more wheat, so they can be full
enough to sleep you forgotten.
I know this is asking a lot
But it could always be worse.
After all,
what will the men
do with their hands
if you don't give them something
to drain from you while the years
are still kind
or at least
not carving maps
in your flesh
that all lead back home to
the South where
they will reach into your mouth
and build a confessional.
Everything that comes
from your lips will sound
like an apology.
While the summer swarms
pregnant with a new soundtrack or
a new sacrifice
they will sit you
on a porch and you
will watch the shoreline
expand and
grow teeth.

Hanif Abdurraqib is from Columbus, Ohio. He is a Pushcart-nominated poet, and the author of Sons Of Noah, a chapbook forthcoming from Tired Hearts Press in 2014. His poems have been featured in Radius, Vinyl, Freezeray, joINT, Borderline, and other journals that are far too kind. He thinks poems can save the world, but also just really wants to talk to you about music and sports.

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