Author Archives: Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

About Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

Hanif Willis-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.

#5 – While Watching the Music Video for “Only One” at Midnight, Kanye West Walks Into the Fog Holding His Daughter in His Arms and I Can See the Clouds Outside of My Window Parting Into Two Wings

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As we approach our 3rd anniversary on February 6th, we are counting down the top-ten most-read posts from the last year.
 
 
& there, gentle smoke cleaved by a small girl’s face
looking into the eyes of her father as if it is the first time &
the shape of her own eyes are a gift from a buried woman
& I realize this part of the performance is not for us
& maybe all life is the years being plucked from our arms
like rose petals & cast into the fields by some god
until we are nothing but alone & eager for the rain
& the mist that rises from it & carries our voices
to those who have survived the wreckage we left &
Kanye West is alone on the screen now & he is alone
in the rain & he is alone clutching the heavy air like he knows
that there is something living inside of it &
I know what it is to never actually be alone
I know what it is to think you are alone &
instead be in the arms of an entire family &
I hear my mother’s voice in the threatening
of the sky & the small silence that comes after lightning
pulls its bright dress over the dark of night &
this is something the wind cannot paint over
even as the clouds are split from each other Continue reading

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While Watching the Music Video for “Only One” at Midnight, Kanye West Walks Into the Fog Holding His Daughter in His Arms and I Can See the Clouds Outside of My Window Parting Into Two Wings

3030 header 20150331-01

 
& there, gentle smoke cleaved by a small girl’s face
looking into the eyes of her father as if it is the first time &
the shape of her own eyes are a gift from a buried woman
& I realize this part of the performance is not for us
& maybe all life is the years being plucked from our arms
like rose petals & cast into the fields by some god
until we are nothing but alone & eager for the rain
& the mist that rises from it & carries our voices
to those who have survived the wreckage we left &
Kanye West is alone on the screen now & he is alone
in the rain & he is alone clutching the heavy air like he knows
that there is something living inside of it &
I know what it is to never actually be alone
I know what it is to think you are alone &
instead be in the arms of an entire family &
I hear my mother’s voice in the threatening
of the sky & the small silence that comes after lightning
pulls its bright dress over the dark of night &
this is something the wind cannot paint over
even as the clouds are split from each other Continue reading


#1 – On Joy

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On February 6, DMC celebrates its TWO-YEAR ANNIVERSARY! Holy mackerel, time flies. It’s been a great year. We’ve published hundreds of pieces this year that we feel proud and honored to share, and we also put out our first book! This week we will be counting down the Top Ten Most Read posts from our second year of existence, and will present #2 and #1 on Saturday, February 6. Thanks for being part of a wild and excellent two years.

 

I.

What I most remember about Columbus, Ohio on the Saturday night of George Zimmerman’s acquittal is the heat. Though it was only mid-summer, a late-summer’s blaze set itself on the city. The kind that sits on top of your skin, hungry and unshakeable. It was the kind of day where everyone sits inside next to an air conditioner, or sweats through an old t-shirt walking the three blocks to the store, like I did, right before a friend texted me “He’s not guilty. He’s free.”

My then-girlfriend, Laura, was back home, visiting her family in the small Ohio town where she was raised. About a month earlier, I managed to fly across the country and back in 24 hours to pick up an engagement ring without her knowing about it (a trick that involved more airport running than I will likely ever have to do again in my life). I spent most of my time on the day of Zimmerman’s acquittal inside of our tiny attic apartment, wrestling with a number of anxieties about putting the ring to its proper use (anxieties that I continued to wrestle with until I finally did the deed early in October of that year, much to the relief of family and friends). I had been invited to a game of hide and seek that night in the park down the street from my house. Some revelry after a day of oppressive heat, some praise at the feet of a cool night. After I returned from the store and processed the text about the verdict, I remember sitting under a blanket in the dark, right up against the loud and rattling window air conditioner, shivering. In debating whether or not I should go out to the park and try to find a release with people I cared deeply for, I considered this idea of a black male running into the night. How we seemed to be consistent only in the art of disappearance. How, even in joy, running into a cool and needed darkness could end in burial. My name on a stone next to the stone with my mother’s name on it. The unused ring, still in a drawer. The woman I hoped to spend my life with, re-learning a life without me in it, and then carrying on, as we all do. I considered my father, forced to convince a nation that mine was a life worth being kept. And I wept, loudly and angrily. I stared at my hands, pushed them into the shadows of our living room, and watched them vanish.

Continue reading


#3 – While Watching The Baltimore Protests On Television, Poets On The Internet Argue Over Another Article Declaring “Poetry Is Dead”

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On February 6, DMC celebrates its TWO-YEAR ANNIVERSARY! Holy mackerel, time flies. It’s been a great year. We’ve published hundreds of pieces this year that we feel proud and honored to share, and we also put out our first book! This week we will be counting down the Top Ten Most Read posts from our second year of existence, and will present #2 and #1 on Saturday, February 6. Thanks for being part of a wild and excellent two years.

 

I mean is it really dead did we watch its mother pull its limp husk from the mouth of a night that it walked into living are there one hundred black hands carrying its casket through the boulevard did it die in a city that no one could find until fire drank from the walls of its abandoned homes did broken glass rain onto the streets in its memory did people weep at the shatter did people cry for the convenience store and forget the corpse did the reek of rising gas drain the white from a child’s eyes did we stop speaking its Continue reading


While Watching The Baltimore Protests On Television, Poets On The Internet Argue Over Another Article Declaring “Poetry Is Dead”

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I mean is it really dead did we watch its mother pull its limp husk from the mouth of a night that it walked into living are there one hundred black hands carrying its casket through the boulevard did it die in a city that no one could find until fire drank from the walls of its abandoned homes did broken glass rain onto the streets in its memory did people weep at the shatter did people cry for the convenience store and forget the corpse did the reek of rising gas drain the white from a child’s eyes did we stop speaking its Continue reading


On Joy

images (5)

I.

What I most remember about Columbus, Ohio on the Saturday night of George Zimmerman’s acquittal is the heat. Though it was only mid-summer, a late-summer’s blaze set itself on the city. The kind that sits on top of your skin, hungry and unshakeable. It was the kind of day where everyone sits inside next to an air conditioner, or sweats through an old t-shirt walking the three blocks to the store, like I did, right before a friend texted me “He’s not guilty. He’s free.”

My then-girlfriend, Laura, was back home, visiting her family in the small Ohio town where she was raised. About a month earlier, I managed to fly across the country and back in 24 hours to pick up an engagement ring without her knowing about it (a trick that involved more airport running than I will likely ever have to do again in my life). I spent most of my time on the day of Zimmerman’s acquittal inside of our tiny attic apartment, wrestling with a number of anxieties about putting the ring to its proper use (anxieties that I continued to wrestle with until I finally did the deed early in October of that year, much to the relief of family and friends). I had been invited to a game of hide and seek that night in the park down the street from my house. Some revelry after a day of oppressive heat, some praise at the feet of a cool night. After I returned from the store and processed the text about the verdict, I remember sitting under a blanket in the dark, right up against the loud and rattling window air conditioner, shivering. In debating whether or not I should go out to the park and try to find a release with people I cared deeply for, I considered this idea of a black male running into the night. How we seemed to be consistent only in the art of disappearance. How, even in joy, running into a cool and needed darkness could end in burial. My name on a stone next to the stone with my mother’s name on it. The unused ring, still in a drawer. The woman I hoped to spend my life with, re-learning a life without me in it, and then carrying on, as we all do. I considered my father, forced to convince a nation that mine was a life worth being kept. And I wept, loudly and angrily. I stared at my hands, pushed them into the shadows of our living room, and watched them vanish.

Continue reading


Two Poems – Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

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My Wife Says That There Are So Many Songs

That aren’t about what we thought they were when we were kids. 
There hasn’t been anything romantic written since the 70’s. 
All songs are about how much of someone we can take into ourselves 
until we both become dust. It is evening once more. By the time 
we go to sleep there will be another city to call our own. 
Another home to fold us into its cracked hands. I pick branches off 
of my mother’s grave again. I don’t know what will stretch itself 
over the stone after I have left it to its own growing. Everyone 
tells me that the Third Eye Blind song isn’t about what I thought 
it was about in 1997 when we covered the head of the cold body. 
When the men carried the coffin and buried it here. I walked the 
streets of a borrowed city with headphones and stopped speaking. 
Only allowed my mouth to shape itself around the words of this 
dirge that spilled out of pop radio, out of college house parties. 
And tonight, as the state where we fell in love becomes another 
ghost between us, playing a mixtape I made, it leaps out the 
speakers. I sing along to the line I'm smiling, she's living; 
she's golden and then rewind it.



When I Say That Loving Me Is Kind Of Like Being A Chicago Bulls Fan

what I mean is that my father can tell a bunch of cool stories 
about back in the day when I was truly great. there is a mountain 
of gold that has gathered dust in the corner where I used to 
sleep, and look at all of these pictures. in this one, I am 
wearing rainbow shorts and hurling rocks at a shoreline. in 
this one, I am smiling in the glow of 13 lit candles pushed 
into a sheet of dark sugar. you may ask why I allow my face to 
drown in less and less joy with each passing year and I will say 
I just woke up one day and I was a still photo in everyone else’s 
home but my own. or I will say I promise that my legs just need 
another season, and then I will be who you fell in love with again. 
and then I will probably just say I’m sorry that there was once a 
tremendous blue sky and then a decade of hard, incessant rain.



Sip the Wine: A Reflection on The Last Waltz

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Here is what I know.

In 2003, on the night before Thanksgiving, if you found yourself stuck at Capital University in Ohio over Thanksgiving Break when all of your classmates were home with their loved ones, you somehow dragged yourself out of whatever crippling sorrow left you washed up on a nearly empty campus in late November in a tiny dorm room where the failing heater rattled louder than the chilled bones it was meant to keep warm. You made your way to the Saylor-Ackermann Hall community room, and you maybe carved out a space for yourself in front of the giant outdated television, and you definitely threw whatever money you could spare on the pool table on top of the money already thrown there by all of the other castaways so that we could make a feast out of some cheap pizza, and watch The Last Waltz.

For years, this was my tradition. Regardless of if I spent the week of Thanksgiving alone, with someone I loved and cared for, or someone who just needed to feel less lonely while everyone around us became full and happy. Watching The Last Waltz on the week of Thanksgiving was always a primary plan, everything else (food, for example) became secondary. Continue reading


Two Poems – Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

Fall-out-boy-live-2013

Ode To Pete Wentz, Ending In Tyler’s  Funeral 

There is already more than enough blood in your city tonight and yet I know you 
are at the edge of another tower of speakers, stacked higher than the dead boys 
pulled from the southside and forgotten. To jump knowing you will be caught is a 
type of mercy I have never known, yet craved. You can love a whole scene until it 
becomes a flooded house, and then I suppose climbing is the only option. Still, 
we wore all black every summer like the sun didn’t snarl. Didn’t have teeth, never 
wanted to tear into our skin and let the salt of us pour out in waves, or like our 
skin wasn’t suspect enough before we decided to be rebels. Before we walked into 
corner stores with no money and walked out with chocolate melting against the 
warmth of our thighs. We wrote “IGNORE YOUR GOD COMPLEX” in every bathroom stall 
on Campus one of those years even though we knew the right lyrics, because on a 
night we were too poor afford concert tickets we pressed our backs into a hill 
overlooking the LC and let every sound arrive in our spines and throb, and the way 
Patrick’s voice swung into the air when singing “Loaded God Complex”, we couldn’t 
tell the difference, just knew we discovered a message that had to be delivered on 
the walls of places where people emptied themselves of everything they challenged 
their body to own. In those days, we were drunk on reaching up and pulling the 
night sky apart, swallowing it in chunks, until we were as dark inside as we were out. Continue reading

THE SONGS THAT SHAPE US: 10 Albums That Have Shaped Me As A Writer, In No Particular Order

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Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

I think far too many writers and creatives find themselves waiting for permission to move instead of shaping what the movement actually is. I can say that because all too often, I’ve found myself in that space, waiting in the back row of a show, waiting for some poet to tell me that what I’ve needed to write for months is actually ok to write. The great thing about Herbie Hancock, from the moment he left Miles Davis’ employ, was that he really flourished in a space where the permissions were his to set. His work inside the studio in that era felt like a kid taking his first drive alone after getting his license. Head Hunters, when compared to some of his other work in that time, is fairly simple in how the instruments are used. Two note riffs, and such. But it is the instruments themselves. The funk that bleeds into the jazz. The way the grooves maintain past what we expect of them. This is an album that reminds me that I can build my own boundaries, as flimsy as I want to. It whispers, the road is yours now. roll down the windows. step on the gas.

 
Continue reading