Poems and Texts

“Kirk Franklin Has to Be in Every Rap Song from Now On” by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

Kirk Franklin Has to Be in Every Rap Song from Now On

I, too, have craned my neck / under a shower head that is not my own / & let melodies from heaven rattle the tiles in the bathroom of a stranger / like the tiles were gently placed there / by my own hands / & I insist on this small comfort / even though I know I cannot sing / because my grandmother also could not sing / & this did not stop her from shouting out Ms. Mahalia / over a kitchen sink full of dishes / even after the packs of cigarettes finally came to collect / & left with one of her lungs in their palms / & even then she would still send us to the corner store / where they knew our family’s name / & have us sneak her cigarettes back home / inside the Sunday paper / so that my father wouldn’t know / & with the change we would buy cassette singles / & sing along to Whitney Houston on the school bus out loud / during the gang war 90s / & last night I went to the corner store to buy smokes / for a woman who was waiting for me in a bed / with sheets that I could never afford / & I do not know what it is to crave smoke / but I do know what it is to crave the touch of a smoker / & want to hold them close until morning / & this is how I know the holy ghost lives inside of whatever is blown from the lips of the last person you kissed / & what I’m mostly saying is that I know of no secular black people / I know of no black people who are not being prayed for by someone somewhere / & so maybe all of my skinfolk actually are my kinfolk / if all I require is a meal to be shared / a bounty to be praised in silence / but for the small choir behind us / of everyone who we have loved / in spite of their singing / & I need gospel wherever it chooses to come for me / nestled in between two unholy verses / or in the harsh & scattered whistles of breath running from a grandmother’s lips in her last nights of sleep / or in the small ashtrays found hidden under the bed upon her leaving / & the small white mountains built inside, each humming their own dying notes

Previously published in The Baffler

Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. His first full length poetry collection, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, was released in June 2016 from Button Poetry. It was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Prize, and was nominated for a Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. With Big Lucks, he released a limited edition chapbook, Vintage Sadness, in summer 2017 (you cannot get it anymore and he is very sorry.) His first collection of essays, They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was released in winter 2017 by Two Dollar Radio and was named a book of the year by Buzzfeed, Esquire, NPR, Oprah Magazine, Paste, CBC, The Los Angeles Review, Pitchfork, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. He released Go Ahead In The Rain: Notes To A Tribe Called Quest with University of Texas press in February 2019. The book became a New York Times Bestseller, and was met with critical acclaim. His second collection of poems, A Fortune For Your Disaster, was released by Tin House Books in September 2019.

Related Events