Kirk Franklin Has to Be in Every Rap Song from Now On


I, too, have craned my neck / under a shower head that is not my own / & let melodies from heaven rattle the tiles in the bathroom of a stranger / like the tiles were gently placed there / by my own hands / & I insist on this small comfort / even though I know I cannot sing / because my grandmother also could not sing / & this did not stop her from shouting out Ms. Mahalia / over a kitchen sink full of dishes / even after the packs of cigarettes finally came to collect / & left with one of her lungs in their palms / & even then she would still send us to the corner store / where they knew our family’s name / & have us sneak her cigarettes back home / inside the Sunday paper / so that my father wouldn’t know / & with the change we would buy cassette singles / & sing along to Whitney Houston on the school bus out loud / during the gang war 90s / & last night I went to the corner store to buy smokes / for a woman who was waiting for me in a bed / with sheets that I could never afford / & I do not know what it is to crave smoke / but I do know what it is to crave the touch of a smoker / & want to hold them close until morning / & this is how I know the holy ghost lives inside of whatever is blown from the lips of the last person you kissed / & what I’m mostly saying is that I know of no secular black people / I know of no black people who are not being prayed for by someone somewhere / & so maybe all of my skinfolk actually are my kinfolk / if all I require is a meal to be shared / a bounty to be praised in silence / but for the small choir behind us / of everyone who we have loved / in spite of their singing / & I need gospel wherever it chooses to come for me / nestled in between two unholy verses / or in the harsh & scattered whistles of breath running from a grandmother’s lips in her last nights of sleep / or in the small ashtrays found hidden under the bed upon her leaving / & the small white mountains built inside, each humming their own dying notes

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first collection of poems, The Crown Ain't Worth Much, was released by Button Poetry in 2016. His first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, is forthcoming from Two Dollar Radio in winter 2017.

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