John Henry crosses the threshold—

Everyone up here called me crazy but
I couldn’t do nothing but what seemed right.
Crazy to fight—maybe—maybe crazy
enough to win. Every day I crouch down

into that bend I know I might not creep
out again. Tunnels eat men like penance—
like payment for letting us through       I knew
my life would be short would be fast but each

shaft of light that snuck through the cracks I smacked
in them walls kept me going and led me

right back—swinging—up this yap and folks thought
I was crazy try’n’a dream us up a
future even if I couldn’t see it
through all that dust       those sudden
                                                                           shouts and screams.

More by Samiya Bashir

At Harlem Hospital across the street from the Schomburg the only thing to eat is a Big Mac

after Z. S.

Still, somehow we are
carousel. We spin bodies
to the wall and back.

We are woman and
man and man. We
are surgeon and

operation. We are
everybody we love.
We are inside them.

We are inside and we
are laughing. We are
man and we will die too.

We know that much.
We are our own
shadow. We are want

of touch. We are woman
and man and man don’t look.
We are curvature—look!

We are train.
We are star.
We are big

tiny spiders. We are
crawling. We are biting.
We are hungry. We are

a stopped carousel. We are
bodies dropped to the floor.
We are shaking. We are our own.

Still, somehow, we are
laughter. We are the doorway out.
We are (again) the doorway in.

Second law

Who was warned about these things:
the neverhush, the maddening chafe
sliding down a reddened bridge, print
disappearing            disappearing?

Who was told how to brook it?
The houndstooth stench of olding.
That time just runs itself out. That
we Sisyphus ourselves to glasses,
hobble wreckage down stair
after bricky stair. 

That once we leave home—its gaseous
oven—that once we walk the same slow
steps as our hide-and-seek sun that
once we face our anti-lovers’ anti-gaze:
bright, open, later, now eyes smoldered
coats swept open to flash our own
scarred bellies our own hot hands
ablaze with spent matches with burnt-out
love —

Remember love? 

How it loosed its jaw to our kisses?
How it unhinged us? How it tried us 

like so many keys like so many rusted
locks? How it missed its target despite its
kicking? How maybe its force could kill us?

Without it what’s left day after day
to trundle our legs? What’s left to push
breath ragged and torn from our lungs?

Who was warned
how these solar winds would leave us
brown and bruised as apples over-
-ripe host and blowsy      seed dis-
appearing     disappearing?

Were you?

Me too.

You’re really faithful to your abusers, aren’t you?

Like love: first you pick up; then you lay down; then discard; then discard; then discard. That’s love. Right? Did somebody say Dominoes? The problem of a street game is you. You’re already doing it wrong. Doing it wrong before you wake up. Before you walk up the street. Cross the crowded corner. Case in point: When you reach the bones table, you stop. Stare. Consider. Count. Think: This is a lovely afternoon for a friendly game of dominoes! Call next. Figure they don’t hear. Call next again. You call louder. You call in Spanish. Then you walk (again, with the walking) into the bodega. Come out with four 40oz bottles. Suddenly somebody hears. Suddenly the smell of holes burning pockets. Suddenly, the game you watch ends. Like love. Right? Somebody?