He died as he lived: tongue in my mouth, whipping me from the inside out.
Kill yourself, then we were in the kitchen rinsing the knives. Kill yourself,
then on our knees picking wet pills off tile. Then strangers clawed us
from the train track, but a slippery sleeve. Then out for three days,
on a plane on a panel explaining the political good of Black joy,
digging his fingernails into our thigh for mispronouncing hierarchal,
for not connecting Jesus dot to Master dot, for my unslit throat,
sham offering. He died as he lived. As real as imagined.
Raw flesh hammered to plain wood posts. Spoiling in the sun
while I sucked the splinters from my palm, sure I killed a child of god
as the others dropped their plagues and played, forgiving me.
Kemi Alabi is the author of Against Heaven (Graywolf Press, 2022), selected by Claudia Rankine for the 2021 Academy of American Poets First Book Award. Their work appears in Poetry, TriQuarterly, The Atlantic, Poem-a-Day, Best New Poets 2019, Redivider as winner of the 2020 Beacon Street Prize, and elsewhere. Alabi is coeditor of The Echoing Ida Collection (Feminist Press, 2021) and lives in Chicago, IL.