Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Field Theories

sold for poker chips
left cold left thawed left

bent into the yawp
ass up

let be
let air

bones
unknowns

ash
everywhere

curved space
dark – breath

dark – breath
dark – what?

sold for bluff on blind
left choked

left down
left bent

left passed
catch

How a body grabs a body.
Hungry. Even Jesus let

his bakers dozen fend
for themselves once

they got to snipping and
sipping too comfortably.

According to the literature.
Jesus. That first bite.

Its sharp. Its ache.
Its nectar. We’ll

build a fort and fill it
with maple trees gone gaudy

with cobalt wishing stones.
We’ll crawl inside and imagine

how maybe we used to laugh.
Fuck Orpheus and fuck them

for loving him for not loving who
we love when we’re the ones

down here rotting in hell.
Huh? Music?

Anyone ever really heard us sing?
Let’s move this: anyone ever asked?

Even so we sing all day. Even so we pass
our hours whatever ways we can —

We know some folk don’t listen.
Just look. And trace. Look:

What is a thing of beauty
if not us?

Bear where a clothespin clips a nose
and breath is held until —

Bear it then keep walking
toward light. Right? Wait —

We’ll ask them to name something
blue and maybe they’ll say:

popsicle tongue
broken finger

black eye. Easy enough
to say You. Don’t.

What does anyone out here know
of us? How

our tar-stained wings hide
what ergot saddles we ride. How

between our teeth we mash
the fur of maritime beasts. Still

some folk never thanks us
to manifest their pleas. Yet

what is a thing of beauty
if not us? Repeat:

dark – breath
dark – breath

dark – things we do as
we turn slowly blue:

lead laser dots through another
chalk outline; pick up today’s

halloween dress; cry
at commercials; obey; pay

defense department rates
for a sandwich; unremember

memorable jingles; jaw
sandwiches that taste just like

sandwiches; figure we can’t
expect much more than that; don’t.

Some slaves only get free enough
to crouch in Kentucky foxholes

with Cincinnati just over
one last swift river.

Our own acrid smell finally
wakes us. Eras. Halfwoke

slowroll through the wet spot.
Panic. Floor. Hard. Years.

The worst kiddie-porn
we’ll never say we see.

Bottles. Cans. Pizza box
hotels. Crusty burrito

bits. Razor blades.
Mirror shards. Cat puke.

Half a joint. Shuffled match.
Broken brick. Bloody steps.

Lit joint. Burnt fingers. Better.
Wash the hair/don’t wash the hair.

Wash the hair/don’t wash the hair.
Wash the hair/don’t wash the hair.

Own no time. Late as fuck. Strip
the bed. Consider the stain. Don’t.

The murk we blow to cool.
The slop and bang we curse.

The hum of incandescence.
The lip burns we nurse.

The best skin of our lives.
The best skins of our lives.

What is thing of beauty
if not us?

Repeat.

Credit


Copyright © 2017 by Samiya Bashir. Originally published in Field Theories (Nightboat Books, 2017). Used with the permission of the poet.

Author


Samiya Bashir

Samiya Bashir is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Field Theories (Nightboat Books, 2017). She is June 2019 Guest Editor for Poem-a-Day and an associate professor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she lives.

Date Published: 2017-04-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/field-theories