Back to Issue Eighteen.

just like that, a new black child is born to replace the buried one


and a bullet feels a fresh itch in its spine. the morning after the name in the headline does not belong to anyone I have loved, the sun pulls my eyes back and I see the world for the first time. the clock returns. its shadow hangs over my bed and the numbers count down again. i live 28 hours at a time and am born anew each undead day. no one calls the murdered boy a boy and so i imagine i, too, have always been a man. never anyone’s child. even when I was small and knew nothing of this violence that ransacks our eternal youth. somewhere along the line, a boat arrived, lined with sweaty and swollen black skin. a white man gave a black man a name. a black man gave a black man a name. a black man gave a black man a name. this is how i was given a father. i imagine anything we own is borrowed. i imagine my own blood is borrowed. i do not know which summer will chose it as bright paint along its demanding night. i hear it hum a song of escape at the mouth of each full moon. i will one day suffer some unimaginable death and grow wings that will also not be my own. in the corner of heaven that belongs to us, we are called only by whatever our families passed down. we look up, and the trees have no history. no one will worship what carried us to the afterlife. until then, a mother rocks a boy in her arms and whispers my baby is getting so big. the ground cracks. a fresh grave begins to rise from the earth.

Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. He is a Callaloo Creative Writing fellow, a writing fellow at Yale University, and a columnist for MTV News. His first collection of poems, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, was released by Button Poetry in 2016.

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