Windsor Terrace, 1990

Around the flickering old box that Jason’s granddad lifted from the corner of Aven and Barnett, we huddle our limbs to watch Mike Tyson’s legs become stiff oak before he falls at the feet of Buster Douglas, who used to live right over there on Linden. Where, legend has it, he dunked so hard in a high school game that the air felt like a spaceship took off right here in the streets and the ground ain’t stopped vibrating since. Some nights, we press our bodies to it and feel the hum run through the dark fat of our small legs, rise and tell our mothers we can fill their fists with gold one day, buy our way out of this persistent stew of cold and sleeplessness. On the television, Tyson is crawling around on the canvas like I’ve seen a man crawl on the living room floor, praying for enough change to keep a baby’s modest stomach full for another night and maybe these two things are both a survival of violence. A man is shown his own blood and plummets to the earth before trying to force his body to rise once more. When people pay money to watch, we call this sport. When people spill from their apartments into a dim alley or a decaying school yard to watch, we call this the ghetto. But the cheering is the same. The excitement one gets in watching a body that is not theirs twitching in the dirt has never left us, ever since we watched the first funeral roll slow down the block. And now Tyson is trying to force his mouthpiece between his unhinged and begging mouth while reaching for the ropes and Jason’s grandfather’s trembling voice is whispering

get up boy,
get up

and he is almost looking past the television, into the night.

In This Scene,

I am still fascinated by the glint of warm
light that echoes off the snow and arrives to feast

on the uncovered flesh of anyone brave
enough to walk through another harsh winter

even after decades encased in the Midwest during such loveless hours
when the streets become covered in white like

everywhere we look is another anchored ghost clawing at the window
but this is the season where I will make the face

of a girl on a cookie and pass it to her across a room full of
strangers which is a weird way to say

I think I could love you until even the sun grows tired
of coming back every

spring to forgive us for another season of hiding
but it is not like me to be brave

at least not until there is enough warmth for the corner to flood
again with this city’s melting

until the boys tear their hands from the cold glass and
burst fearless again into the wetness

especially not when I can miss a stranger who may not remember
my name for months, or fill a notebook with

questions I might ask from across a table in the soft buzz
of a coffee shop while two drinks grow cold

yet still not as cold as the night we first laughed at the
same joke or at least

the first time her laugh drifted across a room and
I hungered for better humor

before I walked home in three sweaters and two pairs
of pants, shivering in the darkness

asking myself how long it would be before I could finally
peel back all of those layers and become a

new, unbreakable device

Ok, I’m Finally Ready To Say I’m Sorry For That One Summer

when I watched American Pie 2 twice a week & listened to all nine minutes of “Konstantine” on the way to every party with the sun still out in a car thick with sober voices spilling out of the windows & making another mess all over the sidewalks. I guess this is what it looks like when youth is writhing on its deathbed but the boys who claim it are still very much alive & blooming & being split in half by a beam of moonlight stumbling in through a window and falling all over the sheets in a bed that is not ours. In the heat of that summer, I escaped the parties on Friday nights to find the near-silent bedroom of a girl who I pretended to stop talking to when my friends said we’re college guys now, but who I used to shoot hoops with in the backyard & skipped out on prom to go record shopping with last spring & that summer, we would sit on her floor & let the Supremes record play all the way through twice & tell each other stories about how our college roommates snored all year & how we didn’t sleep like we used to under this city’s moon & how we never got used to eating alone & how we instead got used to hunger & how small we’ve become because of all these things & then we would lay with each other without ever touching & I didn’t know how to talk about distance out loud & in the mornings over breakfast with the guys when Jeff would yell how was it last night across the table & I knew what it carried even then & I still smiled into a brown tornado of coffee until the plates rattled with fists pounding & laughter & high fives & isn’t it funny how silence can undress two bodies & press them into each other? & when I say funny I mean the feeling that stretches itself out in your stomach while you watch someone cry into their palms & turn their face to the night before they walk away from you for what you know is the last time before there is new sharp & boundless city between the both of you forever & when fall came, boys sat up in their beds alone & gasping while their hearts rattled out the ghosts of every unspoken love that dragged them there & then a whole country crawled itself across the ocean & went to war.

Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib is a poet and writer from Columbus, Ohio. He has been featured in Radius, Stirring, Muzzle, Vinyl, joINT, Borderline, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and his poem “Hestia” won the 2014 Capital University poetry prize.

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