Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib


after Frank O’Hara

It is 3:15 on a Saturday & I am in a car on I-95 on the way to the soccer game & Nate is riding shotgun which is also the name for when you plunge something sharp into a can of beer & split open its aluminum shell before swallowing its urgent sacrifice & I once saw Nate do this five times in one night before the Mount Union game & we got to the field late the next morning smelling like something coughed up in the heat of a 1980’s summer & it was almost as hot then as it is right now in this traffic that isn’t moving & hasn’t moved for what feels like thirty years which is to say that it feels like we haven’t moved since we were too small to speak & burden everyone we love with our refusal to crawl back into silence & every car on this highway is in park & somehow people are still pressing on their horns & Nate turns up the radio & David Ruffin is singing I wish it would rain & his voice is unfolding long & slow in the backseat like an eager lover & there is a whole history of men demanding the sky to shake at their command & I’m not saying out loud whether or not I believe in god & I’m not saying out loud what I know the rain means I’m only saying that I need this dry summer to stay dry I’m only saying that the tickets to this soccer game cost as much as my best suit & kickoff is at 3:30 & we are absolutely going to be late & there is a whole history of black people being late to things & there is a whole language signaling our arrival & there is an entire catalog of jokes that dissect this happening & they never get old & by they I mean black people in America & I can hear the joke our college soccer coach made when the only two black boys on the team stumbled late onto a hot field & lateness always makes for a good joke & the punchline is I slept through my mother’s final breaths or the punchline is I stumbled into a living room thick with a family’s grief while clearing a night’s salt from my eyes or the punchline is that I’m always running late I’m always running I’m always trying to move time backwards & tell everyone that I love them & isn’t that funny & Nate points to an ambulance speeding down the highway opposite us & disappearing into the sun & I don’t want to think that there might be a body inside of it & then all of the cars start moving