Published on Academy of American Poets (

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.


From Field Theory. Copyright © 2017 by Samiya Bashir. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Nightboat Books,


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: 2017-11-08

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