The Rumpus Inaugural Poems: Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

By

Each day from January 7 to January 20, Rumpus Original Poems will feature poetry written in response to the coming presidential inauguration. Today’s poem is from Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib.

***

& who, this time

will starve the mouths of cocked and eager guns. & who, this time, will place themselves in front of the machinery of burial. & who, this time, will kiss under the aching moonlight like the world isn’t crumbling at their backs. & who, this time, will take the babies to the rising river and let what will be their undoing wash over their heads. & who, this time, will not run from the fire whispering its way along a city’s spine. & who, this time, will instead break the tree’s lowest branch & bend it into the fire. & who, this time, will carry the torch to the temple gates & interrupt the crowning & the victory feasts & the death parades crawling long into the streets. & who, this time, will weigh the price of heaven in their palms & instead turn to the faces of their people & say hell is upon us again but this time the hell will be ours and ours alone. & who, this time, will be the righteous demon & raise up all other righteous demons to cast out the vicious. & who, this time, will serve the reminder that there are more of us than there are of them. & who, this time, will mean that we all have ancestors & some of them built this country. & some of them were fed into the hunger of war to keep this country built. & some of them were dragged across Kelly Ingram Park by the jaws of police dogs. & some of them were pushed like dying weeds down Birmingham by the riot hoses. & some of them washed blood out of their only good pair of marching shoes. & some of them washed blood out of their grandmother’s only pair of good sheets. & some of them buried their children at dawn & pressed their backs against police barricades at dusk. a& some of them fill prisons & hum the words from a spiritual passed down from their mothers who sit in empty houses with wide yards, paid for with the money their children got from doing what a judge said won’t have them home for another twenty. & some of them left behind enough of themselves to rattle us, coughing, to whatever freedom waits beyond the new & slick walls. & some of them hover in the night & lock arms above our gathering. & some of them lean into our ears and share the same small blessing:

they can’t kill us
until they kill us.
they can’t kill us
until they kill us.
they can’t kill us
until they kill us.

they can’t kill us.

– Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

***

Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib is a poet and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. He is a columnist at MTV News, and his first full-length collection of poetry, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, was released by Button Poetry in 2016.


Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →