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The Day After The Election I Did Not Go Outside

by HANIF WILLIS-ABDURRAQIB
 
diagonal-lines-1951

Ellsworth Kelly, Diagonal lines, 1951

 
 
BUT for a moment, to drive to the soul
food spot on Congress ave. where utensils,
large & made for the hands of no one living among
us, hang on the walls & where the woman behind

the counter yells out my order before my second
foot makes it in the door & where her laugh is like
my sister’s or where her laugh is like my mother’s or
where her laugh is like my grandmother’s or where her laugh

is like the laugh of a black woman who knows where the devil
is hiding & knows how to shake him loose & in the soul food
spot there are no devils but there is plenty sin & where you look
at the sweet tea & your dentist gets a chill from miles away &

where, if the gossip is good enough, the smoke from the kitchen
puffs into black halos & someone ain’t getting the catfish they
ordered & where all is forgiven & where forgiveness is always
dressed in something fried or sweet & where, around a circle

of spent plates, men with their full bellies & thin gold chains slap
cards on a wooden table & where those men ignore the yelling
& the marching on the television & where I imagine those men
have seen this movie before & know its ending & yet are still

here to watch it again & where the plates rattle when one of the men shows
his hand & says his partner ain’t shit & where I laugh because these men
could be my father & around the right table, I am everyone’s child &
where the stereo is from the 90s & so is everything that crawls out of it

& where Lauryn sings how you gon’ win if you ain’t right within & I am
oh, I am right within for this small and shrinking moment. I am right
within for this newborn praise, because the rain stopped & the clouds
gave way earlier & yes, the darkness arrives sooner now & yes,

the streets were still slick, but on this day, the children were in
them, dodging the streetlights on their small bikes & the girls
leapt & whipped their long ponytails through the open mouths
of two jump ropes & this is the only country they know & it is nothing

to get free when your only country is freedom & so I say, then:
make a border around any place you are loved & call it yours.
make a border around those who hold you up & build what
you must to keep the devils out. I say, then: I know, I know

the burning cannot be unseen & on this night I claimed a new
& fleeting empire, governed by soul food & loud black children &
no one telling them to be quiet. governed by men who lose
card games. governed by men who know they ain’t shit & the women

who know it better but have loved them for too long to stop
now. oh country, my new and brief country. how I walk from you
full & into the wreckage. how I wish you everywhere now.
how I try to taste you in the air instead of blood.