Hanif Abdurraqib

How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This

free love til the check comes & me & mine reach in our fruitless pockets
for the wallets we know we left at the crib next to the framed black & whites
of our divorced or widowed parents. there were hand drawn daisies on the
de la
soul album cover once & now I stay on that hippie shit, arms open the
length of a day’s
eye & no one running towards them but an estate of ghosts—hand drawn
from the depths of memory all my worst enemies keep. native tongue & all
that means
is I know the exact ground from which my moans owe their treacherous
birth.
I know which branch of a tree will bend under a storm’s weight & offer its
palms
to my begging mouth. the satisfaction in breaking a well-cooked egg is in
the yellow
clawing its way beyond a bondage of white. there is nothing more arrogant
than beauty
at rest. de la said D.A.I.S.Y. meant da inner sound, y’all & I guess that
explains the insomnia.
y’all, da inner sound is the long silence between a door slamming & the
kiss of a lock which says
you will never again in your life. put that on everything. put that on the
book I slid under a table
leg to stop my yolk from running. put that on any room so empty, every
name inside is an echo.

How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This

when i tell him about the threat at my doorstep,
the childhood homie thumbs the blue lip
of his waistband & says these niggas don’t want no smoke

& i suppose that is true, though i do
recall the wooden underbelly of the incense holder
& how, before it began to fade, it was adorned

with orchids which were carved into it by hand
& it was carried across an ocean by someone a man loved
enough to call brother despite them sharing no history beyond their necks

craned over the Quran & the women who wanted
so desperately for them to come to bed.
it is impossible to name the blood leashed to your own until you,

like the orchid, fold into anything outside with skin
close enough to yours & sprout a newer & more violent
body. it is impossible to know what you’d kill

for until you hold a face in your two hands
underneath a streetlight on a block where killing pays
the rent. where, as a boy, i would pluck the incense

from its plastic & place it between the tight ring
of the incense holder’s mouth & my father would sing
the call to prayer while the white smoke plumed & divided

into siblings with each syllable & so i think it is true
that niggas don’t want no smoke if by that i am saying niggas
don’t want to be a memory or niggas don’t want to have their name blown

from their father’s lips in a prayer of forgetting. i tell the homie
not to bring guns to my resting place. someone i love is sleeping here
tonight.
& i remember us as young, his mother holding both of our faces in a
hospital bed & saying

you boys have to remember to always take care of each other.