Poems From An Email Exchange

Hanif Abdurraqib
4 min readMar 21, 2016

Re: Your Submission 9:27pm


to Me


We regret to inform you

that the poem in which

the dog empties itself

into morning’s fresh glow

as a metaphor for love

will not be accepted by our magazine

we invite you to submit again

we invite you to first find love

that isn’t shaken to life

by the warmth of a dog’s digested meal

we are sending this email from the depths

of 2,000 gutted roses

we are being swallowed

by what our lovers tore from the earth

we fall in love with everything

we want to kiss the streets strangers have walked on

the dog will always find new ground

the bowl will always be full

we cannot take your poem at this time

because we are cat people

we wish you the best of luck

in placing this poem elsewhere.

Re: Your Submission 9:45pm


to Editor

Dear Editors,

You mention the cat, which hides every mess it makes. I imagine love as an indecent animal. I have stepped in what is left in the streets after the dogs have been left to the carelessness of their owners. I have cleaned the sneaker, stained with the residue of a dogs feast. I have turned the brown back to the moon-white glow and placed my foot gently inside. This, too, is romance. The unclean face kissed clean and made ready for the night. I may ask you to reconsider this poem. I may ask you to reconsider love. I would like to take you on a date. We will walk the gardens of Brooklyn. We will let our feet sink into the mud.

Re: Your Submission 10:37pm


to Me


we regret to inform you

that there are no gardens in Brooklyn

there is only concrete

everything is an endless brunch

everything is a bottomless drink

We say bottomless and we mean that

we know the end is approaching

we just can’t see it

the only true currency in this city

is what you don’t know

or what you know

but won’t say out loud

we regret, again, to inform you

that your poem did not remind us

of anyone we have loved

we read your poem to someone

who we had once kissed

and their entire memory vanished

we read your poem to our mothers

and we became a little more unborn

with each line

we regret to inform you

that your poem

would render the world childless

your poem would undo weddings

your poem would cover every undressed body

in two hundred layers.

Re: Your Submission 11:38pm


to Editor


Midnight is closing in / isn’t it funny / how only the darkness / is a thing that people say closes in / I come from a state / where there is grass everywhere / it grows out of the walls / it grows out of our hands / it spills from our mouths / any time we speak / I mean to say / that I am actually the garden you are looking for / I mean to say / that I have awaken in the brunch hours / and refused to eat / I am a man of boundaries / there is an hour for pancakes / there is an hour for pizza / in between / there is only hunger / and now we return / to the animal / my friend had an iguana / that would rest on his stomach as he slept / every night / for the sake of warmth / but never for the sake of love / I have had my face pulled away from this closing darkness / and into the light of a computer screen / once again / but this is also not love / I do not confuse necessity for love / I do not confuse hunger / with the need to fill myself / with anything that will have me / I am sorry about Brooklyn / I am sorry about everywhere that is not what it was once / isn’t that so American / I am so sorry about what all of this / has done to your heart.

Re: Your Submission 12:40am


to Me

My dude,

Truly, this is not going to work

why does it always have to be about

the inside of the body with you poets

can’t our heart just be an untethered

and unspectacular thing that keeps us from a funeral

we regret to inform you that Ohio is barely a state

we regret to inform you that the Midwest

is only Chicago

and other places that want to be Chicago

we drove through Ohio once and saw

only the promise of a waiting hell

on a billboard between farms

maybe this is why you are so lonely

maybe this is why you write only about exits

we have seen skyscrapers

we believe ourselves infinite

we cannot accept poems about grass

what is grass to someone who

is always looking up?

Re: Your Submission 2:19am


to Editor

Perhaps, then, the fall. I wish you a chorus of leaves. Piled to whatever is left of your eyes. Whatever the sky hasn’t