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POETRY: When We Were 13, Jeff’s Father Left The Needle Down On A Journey Record Before Leaving The House One Morning And Never Coming Back

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and this is why none of us sing along to “Don’t Stop Believin’” when we are being driven by Jeff’s mom, four boys packed in the backseat tight like the tobacco in them cigarettes Jeff’s mom got riding

shotgun with us around I-270 in a powder blue Ford Taurus where four years later Jeff will lose his virginity to a girl behind the East High School football field then later that night his keys and pants in the school pool so that he has to run

home crying to his mother with an oversized shirt and no pants, like a cartoon bear, and the next day when I hear this story, I will think about what it means for someone to become naked two times in one night to rush into the warmth of two

women, once becoming a man and once becoming a boy all over again but right now it is just us in this car with Jeff’s mother, that cigarette smoke dancing from her lips until it catches the breeze

from the cracked front window and glides back towards us a vagabond, searching for a throat to move into and cripple while Neal Schon’s guitar rides out the speakers and I don’t know how many open windows a man has to climb out of in the middle of the night in order to have hands that can make anything scream like that.

nothing knows the sound of abandonment like a highway does, not even God.

in the 1980’s, everyone wrote songs about someone leaving except for this one cuz it’s about how the morning explodes over two people in one bed who didn’t know each other the night before when alone

was the only other option and their homes had too many mirrors for all that shit and so it is possible that this is the only song written in the 1980’s about how fear turns into promise
I think I know this because there is so much piano spilling

all over our laps that we can’t help but to smile since we still black and know nothing can ransack sorrow like a piano.

Jeff’s mother’s hand trembles and still wears a wedding ring so she pulls over to the side of the highway and turns the volume up so loud after the second guitar solo when the keys kick in again that we can barely hear the cocktail

of laughter and crying consuming the front seat until the song fades away and the radio is low again and the ring once on Jeff’s mother’s hand is on the side of the highway beneath us, a sacrifice

and so maybe this is why grandma said a piano can coax even the most vicious of ghosts out of a body.

and so maybe this is why my father would stare at the empty spaces my mother once occupied, sit me down at a baby grand and whisper play me something, child.

– Hanif Abdurraqib

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