All poetry is about hope. A scarecrow walks into a bar. An abandoned space station falls to earth. When probing the monster’s brain, you’re probably probing your own. A beautiful woman becomes a ghost. I hope I never miscalculate the dosage that led to the infarction of my lab rabbit again. All poetry is a form of hope. Not certain, just actual like love and other traffic circles. I cried on that airplane too, midwest patchwork below like a board game on which mighty forces kick apart the avatars. I always wanted to be the racecar but usually ended up a thumbtack. When I was young, sitting in a tree counted as preparation and later maybe a little whoopie in the morgue. So go ahead, thaw the alien, break the pentagram but watch out for the institutional hood ornaments. It’s not a museum, it’s a hive. The blood may be fake but the bleeding’s not.
dear reader, with our heels digging into the good mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown & lord knows I have been called by what I look like more than I have been called by what I actually am & I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this exercise. which, too, is an attempt at fashioning something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anything worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics arrive to the tongue first. say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out
clock. he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent
heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning,
you could scatter his whole mind across a field.
About This Poem
“I was at a reading shortly after the election, and the poet (who was black) was reading gorgeous poems, which had some consistent and exciting flower imagery. A woman (who was white) behind me—who thought she was whispering to her neighbor—said ‘How can black people write about flowers at a time like this?’ I thought it was so absurd in a way that didn’t make me angry but made me curious. What is the black poet to be writing about ‘at a time like this’ if not to dissect the attractiveness of a flower—that which can arrive beautiful and then slowly die right before our eyes? I thought flowers were the exact thing to write about at a time like this, so I began this series of poems, all with the same title. I thought it was much better to grasp a handful of different flowers, put them in a glass box, and see how many angles I could find in our shared eventual demise.” — Hanif Abdurraqib
Hanif Abdurraqib is the author of The Crown Ain’t Worth Much (Button Poetry, 2016), his first poetry collection, which was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. He is also the author of the essay collection They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Two Dollar Radio, 2017). He lives in Columbus, Ohio.
All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.
The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of the road.
O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied, adhere to me?
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.
I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.
When there was a clear moon,
I sat down
To write a poem
About maple trees.
But the dazzle of moonlight
In the ink
And I could only write
What I remembered.
Therefore, on the wrapping of my poem
I have inscribed your name.