Poet David Mura Reads ‘Poem For Abdi’

[MUSIC] DAVID MURA: My son, um, has a Somali girlfriend
who–whose brother was shot and, um, then my son had this other friend Abdi who was
shot this summer, um. This is a friend my son was doing hip hop tracks with and, uh,
he was very close to the family. H-he s– he said that the mother was the only Somali
mother that really truly accepted him. So this is a poem for Abdi — it’s the last thing I’ll read. 10:35. Gnats and mosquitoes blurring street lights in the parking lot of the Brian Coyle Rec Center. And Abdi, smoking and chilling just after the lights slipped away on this near-solstice. The lines he’s ??? on flow through that girl he passed at
the Mall of America. The apartment he’ll go back to without his mother, returned to Mogadishu
to aid his dying poet father, heart failing without metaphor. And Abdi thinks, “Next week,
I’ll be breaking Ramadan.” As the beats my son Nico laid down for him start to jump:
“My brain ain’t neurological / Beyond ecological / I’ve touched the devil’s follicles / Stroking
his blood red tail / Thinking where we failed and where he was nailed, a bullet sails / Lurking
late for his smile.” Three shots: POP, POP, POP. Here’s only the first behind him. This
head, his lines, that girl, his smile, his mother, and the fast and food, Ramadan, all
explode from his skull into June night as he topples. And suddenly, there’s two Black
brothers over him smashing at his chest, and he’s not even thinking, “I can’t breathe,
I can’t breathe.” And the streetlight above burns its fluorescence into his retina. Gnats,
mosquitoes in a strange yellow glow, just before the red, the red, the red, the red.
And he’ll never witness his sisters, his brother, his friends Baden and Khadija and Abdi and
Caleb and my son Nico huddled in the waiting room as the surgeons huddle for two hours
to undo what can’t be undone. And so his family and friends stand three days later with his
mother, just returned from Somalia; his father still dying, unable to fly. And there is no
coffin to cover his sleeping face as he’s lowered to grays, and Baden’s brother, and
my son holds his shaking girlfriend. And as he looks at Abdi’s mother — the only, he
says, Somali mother who ever accepted him, even loved him — he thinks of the track
Abdi and he were working on and the album they planned and how, just hours earlier at
work, when he told his boss about his friend’s death, his boss shot back, “That’s what you
get for hanging out with those people.” And how did they get to be my son’s ‘people’?
And how am I to comfort my son, weeping before m–my study? Or chastize his for using my
wife’s card to buy the mother’s plane fare back, and a bus ticket for another friend
to leave for Fargo so he doesn’t become an– one more Abdi? My son saying, he looked at
the mother’s face looking down into her son in the grave and they wanted to rip the clouds
from the sky, rip the hair of his boss out of their follicles, cut the tracks of their
album that will never be finished, and the kids in school shouting at – Abdi, “Look
at me, I’m the captain!” “Hey, Mohammed suicide bomber!” My son saying, “[exhales] I can’t
believe he’s dead, I–I can’t take it in.” And I’m holding him, as Abdi will never be
held by his brother; his sisters; his mother; his father, the poet dying in Mogadishu. And
I can’t say I hate this world as much as you do, Nico, though that too is in my heart.
And so I say, “His life was not his death. Your friendship was not his death. His music
was not his death.” And so I say, “Listen: he’s still rapping. Those lines are still
there. He’s still talking to you. What is he saying?” And Nico says, as his body shakes
in my arms, “He’d want– he’d want me– he’d want me to be happy.” And I see Abdi’s
face, standing beside him, beside us. And I tell him, “Thank you, Abdi. Thank you for
saving my boy.” [AUDIENCE CLAPPING] MONICA SOK: Alright, thank you so much for
being here. Thank y’all! [AUDIENCE CLAPPING] CATHY LINH CHE: Yeah, turn it up, yeah, yeah

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