Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

In Defense Of “Moist”

Sprawling river / peeling off the chest / a wet slap / endless summer / not quite drenched to the bone / yet still a burden / how it sits heavy on the tongue / after being spoken / leaving the mouth / a humid storm / becoming the definition of itself / inside you / heaviness in the prison of your body / I am trying to pull my shirt over my head / after a full court game / in June / and I am thinking of how everyone I love / was once taken from the inside of another person / moist with what carried them / into the world / isn’t that worth the smallest praise / I am closing my eyes / as the shirt’s cotton clings to my back / and I am thinking that all wetness must have teeth / especially the wetness that grows from within / and spills out / or / chews its way through the skin / and falls onto another’s skin / the night Michael Jackson died / everyone black / in Ohio / danced in a basement / until the walls were moist / until it rained indoors / and we saw our heroes /resurrected in the reflection / of our own drowning / I say moist / and do not first think about two naked bodies / the sound their skin might make / when they awkwardly press into each other / underneath a hungry sun / in an apartment with a broken air conditioner / I say moist / and first think of / the eager and swallowing mud / the bullet that burrowed into Sean’s chest / on Livingston Ave / the country of dark red / that grew across his white tee / while his mother held / his paling face / I say moist / as in / my homie’s blood left the corner of my block moist / or / his mama had her hands moist with what once kept her baby alive / or / my eyes were moist when I heard the o.g. say / “someone gonna die every day” / and then he wiped blood off of his shoe / and it felt like summer for ten years