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

Related Events