Two Poems by Hanif Abdurraqib

How Can Black People Write about Flowers at a Time Like This

& it turns out
lineage is the most
vicious stunt of them all

name me after the first
hands to shake the dirt

off my arms & lay diamonds
on my wrist or name me after the pistol

kept in the nightstand of a free
man who wasn’t afraid to use it

you get what I’m saying
name me for the bride

I crane my neck towards
each time she runs the pitch

black gospel choir back into town
imperial in my stunt gold

all in my mouth
so I talk that shit

them white folk shook the hills down
for & now they can’t keep my seeds

out the air or earth
& even the hollow shells

of them can close a throat
before it starts to play me for a fool

look I’m crowning so wide
I got enough shade to feed ten summers

& ten porches of women fanning
themselves with the old testament

& leaning in for the good gossip
& whispering don’t you know there are whole

fields on fire still & I take my reparations
in the almost fading blonde petals
twirling off the black

stem like when nina sang pirate jenny
& the song became about a slave ship

name me after the last nigga
who held the apocalypse in their palms

& rocked it to sleep
for long enough to throw

one more drink on the tab
or the first nigga to have an address everywhere

but one rent check
I’m too fly to haunt anything

but my own reflection &
so when I’m gone I’m gone &

the most vicious stunt of all is how this was your
language first

It Is Once Again the Summer of My Discontent & This Is How We Do It

is creeping out of some open window same way it was
in the summer of ’95 when my heartbreak was a different
animal howling at the same clouds & the cops broke
up the block party at franklin park right before the song
hit the last verse because someone from the right hood
locked eyes with someone from the wrong one & me &
my boys ran into the corner store & tucked the chocolate
bars into the humid caverns of our pants pockets
& later licked the melted chocolate from its sterling
wrappers in the woods behind mario’s crib with the
girls we liked too much to want to know if they liked
us back & there it was, the summer i learned to kiss
the air & imagine it bending into a mouth & here it is
again, the summer everything outside i love is melting
& i tell my boys there is a reason songs from the 90s are
having a revival & it’s because the heart & tongue are
the muscles with the most irresistible histories & i’m
kind of buzzed. i’m kind of buzzing. i’m kind of a hive
with no begging & hollow cavities. there is intimacy
in the moment where the eyes of two enemies meet.
there is a tenderness in knowing what desire ties you to
a person, even if you have spent your dreaming hours
cutting them a casket from the tree in their mother’s
front yard. it is a blessing to know someone wants a
funeral for you. a coming together of your people from
their faraway corners to tell some story about your
thefts & triumphs. all of your better selves shaking
their heads over a table, chocolate staining their teeth.
i suppose there is also intimacy in the moment where
a lover becomes an enemy, though it is tough to say
when it happens. probably when there is a song you
can’t remember them living inside of anymore, even if
both of you curled your lips around the words in a car
at some impossible hour of morning, driving away from
the place you met. i like my agony threaded together by
the same chorus. not everything is sisyphean. no one
ever wants to imagine themselves as the boulder.

These poems originally appeared in The Lifted Brow #39. Get your copy here.

Hanif Abdurraqib is from Columbus, Ohio.