THE GHOST OF THE AUTHOR'S MOTHER HAS A CONVERSATION WITH HIS FIANCÉE ABOUT HIGHWAYS.
...and down south, honey. When the side of the road began to swell with dead and dying things, that's when us black children knew it was summer. Daddy didn't keep clocks in the house. Ain't no use when the sky round those parts always had some flames runnin' to horizon, lookin' like the sun was always out. back when I was a little girl, I swear, them white folk down south would do anything to stop another dark thing from touching the land, even the nighttime. We ain't have streetlights, or some grandmotherly voice riding through the fields on horseback tellin' us when to come inside. What we had was the stomach of a deer, split open on route 59. What we had was flies resting on the exposed insides of animals with their tongues touching the pavement. What we had was the smell of gunpowder and the promise of more to come, and, child, that'll get you home before the old folks would break out the moonshine and celebrate another day they didn't have to pull the body of someone they loved from the river. I say “river” because I want you to always be able to look at the trees without crying. When we moved east, I learned how a night sky can cup a black girl in its hands and ask for forgiveness. My daddy sold the pistol he kept in the sock drawer and took me to the park. Those days, I used to ask him what he feared, and he always said "the bottom of a good glass." And then he stopped answering. And then he stopped coming home altogether.
And it will be the end of spring.
Something about the first day of a season, honey. Something always gotta sacrifice its blood. Everything that has its time must be lifted from the earth. My boys don't bother with seasons anymore. My sons went to sleep in the spring once and woke up to a motherless summer. All they know now is that it always be colder than it should be. I wish I could fix this for you. I'm sorry none of my children wear suits anymore. I wish ties didn't remind my boys of shovels, and dirt, and an empty living room. They all used to look so nice in ties. I'm sorry that you may come home one day to the smell of rotting meat, every calendar you own, torn off the walls, burning in a trashcan.
And you will know.
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.