ALL THE TV SHOWS ARE ABOUT COPS

Hanif Abdurraqib

 

I miss ritual more than I miss religion. It is good to have somewhere to be & a song that carries you there. to drift into a dream while bent, face pressed to the ground. the carpet in my grandfather’s house smelled like the cigarettes he told my mother he’d long sworn off. pray not to god, but to the lies your people tell each other to survive. if there is a heaven, let it be a heaven not of people but a heaven of those lies, breathing beyond the people who told them across a table, or gently blew them into an ear. a heaven of cigarette butts in the shape of a heavy white beard a heaven of cash & cars & gold rings. if my myths outlive me, I carve out a corner of heaven for the lies I’ve told with a flashlight in my eyes or beaming into my car – I carve out a corner for the way I treated the black judge like kin while he scanned my record & considered a sentence. more than I miss religion, I miss how easy it is to be forgiven when the altar beckons five times a day. a corner of heaven for the Arabic I’ve tripped over on a path to forgiveness, a corner for the imagined girlfriends turning over in my brain during the silent prayers, the moans pushed into the worn-down prayer rug. even my pleas are lies. even when I know what I’ve done, I can’t bring myself to speak its name.

*

no one thinks god
would wear a badge

or spend a sunday cleaning
weapons while people fainted

into the aisles
of a church in the name

of something holy.
I don’t believe in god

as much as I believe
in an interrogation room.

I believe in someone
placing a loaded gun

on a metal table
between me and a door.

who gets to be god then?
would god be the bullet

or the table or the door.
but maybe I’m getting

too caught up
in the romantics of power

again. all the police
officers from my
hood

went to church
in the mornings &

helped old
women up the
stairs & into

their pews before
receiving the word.
cleanliness

is the soft palm which
turns a face towards its
righteous

path & so keeping the
streets clean is an act of
god.

no one thinks
god would push
a face

into the mud while saying
you wanna die today, nigger?

so low the onlookers
can’t hear. maybe we’re all playing

dress-up & paying
our tithes where we can.

maybe there is no devil &
just a hundred different
ways

to be the
wrong kind
of god.

maybe if enough
candles light the
concrete’s blood,

someone might mistake
these memorials for a type of prayer.

 

 


Hanif Abdurraqib is a writer from the east side of Columbus, Ohio.