Language & Writing

I Tend To Think Forgiveness Looks the Way It Does in the Movies

by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

like in the field

                       slow motion

the grass dying underfoot

                       someone turns their face

back right at the last

                       minute before the train leaves

the sun sets

                       the flood returns hungry and merciless and without words

all is forgiven

                       speaking of words

I tell my therapist you can’t spell

                       heartbreak without art

and she doesn’t laugh but it’s true look

                       at how I whip my arms in the empty

apartment again to the song

                       from the movie where someone walked back

through the door they once walked out of

                       look at how I keep playing

the b-sides and skipping the hits

                       look at how I build a shrine to afterthoughts

I know this isn’t therapy

                       I know that we aren’t even friends

but tell me what it meant

                       when as a boy

I sat at the mouth

                       of the gumball machines

with no quarters in my pockets

                       twisting each metal diamond

and hoping for a miracle

tell me what it meant

                       that when the first ball dropped

my hands were not ready

                       and I watched it roll in slow

motion down the mall floor

                       until another child more eager

than I was

                       parted their palms like they were catching

the last living dove

                       tell me what it meant that I did not weep

when the child pushed the gumball

                       between their teeth with their eyes on me

the entire time

                       tell me what it means now

that one cannot say heartbreak without the lips

                       making a soft circle of themselves at the opening

of break as they also might to beckon a kiss

                       is it that memory is a field

with endless graves