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My Wife Says That If You Live 20 Years

Without having to go to a funeral, you are really lucky. The girl on TV is no older than I was when everyone
in my quivering home learned to hustle one more ghost into our already overflowing pockets

& even though it is not real, she is being swallowed by a carnivorous grief that is howling & escaping through 
the screen on all fours, pacing around at our feet & begging us to move. Pissing on the blanket sewed by a
grandmother’s hands. Hands that were once a salve for every wound, hands that once clapped along with the 

good gospel in a church shack & once cupped a child’s crying face & once broke bread & then one day just 
broke. Outside, another sky undresses itself to its blood red flesh & what kind of world is this to bring a child 
into anyway? The names we carry have been carved into so much stone clutching the ground in Ohio it is 
impossible to consider how many years it would take to lift them out and pass them on to anyone as small as 
the crumbs from a good meal. but who are we to deny our families the delivery of new blood? New hands to 
assist with the burial and becoming of the earth that chews at the edges of whatever years our elders have left 
& maybe even us in our youth even though we moved out the hood & gunshots don’t echo over the river out 
here & boys don’t leave the barren fields & go to war just so they can fall asleep with full stomachs. It is 
somehow easy to forget that there are so many ways to die while black & not all of them involve being made 
hollow while the world watches & isn’t that a funny thing? How there is all this danger I ignore & make plans 
for 2016 & beyond & beyond & our fathers still want grandchildren in spite of all this & I am afraid that if I 
do not raise children to carry the heft of my body when it dies then I will be only bones after my soul exits to 
spare all of you such heavy lifting & how awful would that be & who would speak my name around a drunk 
& buzzing table when the card game runs dry? & on the elevator, when the woman eyes how I lock fingers 
with my wife, she leans in close & tells us she can tell we’re newlyweds & we smile & she asks how many 
children we’re going to have & I look past her face & into the metal wall where my fading reflection is 
whispering enough to carry endless caskets through the sinking mud.



The House Party, 10:30PM, Courtright And Livingston

another storm is crawling its way from the west
a grey husk rattling the windows of any small town it passes through
scaring the deer from their spring drink and crowding the forest
with the tremble of retreating hooves
the percussion of fear
here, a mother has left a house to her boys
left a Friday night to its own unraveling
the walls stretched to capacity
the bedroom a father never returned to in winter
now a dj booth
bring only yourselves and whatever can be passed
through the eye of a sewing needle
that which put its arms around the splayed denim
of jeans an older brother outgrew
and pressed the edges together
gifting them another year of life
another party where someone will pull a boy
close by their belt loops while
the dj plays One More Chance
for what feels like the 25th time in a row
one for each dealer who didn’t live long enough
to arch the wood on a house’s floor like a good spine
thrown into the heat of dance
by now everyone knows the chorus
even the line of bodies outside the door
eager to get in
stretching down the street
past the graveyard where ten niggas
got buried last Tuesday
the chorus jumping off of every living tongue
from courtright down to east main
the lightning sneaking behind everyone’s back
to turn the sky blue
a brief and bright sweater pulled over the cool night’s stomach
and the thunder that follows
an eager god begging the dj to run it back
one last time



Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic from Columbus, Ohio. He is a poetry editor at Muzzle Magazine, a columnist at MTV News, and a Callaloo creative writing fellow. His first collection of poems, The Crown Ain’t Worth Much, is being released in 2016 by Button Poetry/Exploding Pinecone Press.

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Fox Frazier-Foley is author of two prize-winning poetry collections, EXODUS IN X MINOR (Sundress Publications, 2014) and THE HYDROMANTIC HISTORIES (Bright Hill Press, 2015). She is currently editing an anthology of contemporary American political poetry, titled POLITICAL PUNCH (Sundress Publications, 2016) and an anthology of critical and lyrical writing about aesthetics, titled AMONG MARGINS (Ricochet Editions, 2016). Fox is Founding EIC of Agape Editions, and co-creator of the Tough Gal Tarot.

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