Three poems from “Field Theories”


I step from the airplane. My hair melts dead air. I walk quickly: click-clunk, click-clunk, click-clunk. Barbara Jordan, bronze and sober, glasses poised, the last me I’ll see for three more days and three more days forever. Outside I slow the click-clunk to a three-sound crawl: click-clickclunk &etc. I am a woolly mammoth waiting at the cab stand. I am a woolly mammoth stuffed into a cab. I bear the long silence of my own extinction through the rear view. My head on the back seat: horns akimbo: I melt dead air. Blame humans for the loss of large mammals like myself, a new study suggests. My cousin tuktuks my husk to a dry diorama. The radio blares: “The tide is high.” The radio sings: “I’m gonna be your number one.”





Poems by Samiya Bashir, from her collection Field Theories (Nightboat Books, 2017)

Images and video “Field Theories: 6” by Roland Dahwen Wu.

Blackbody curve

Stairs: a rushed flight down thirty-eight; French doors unlocked always.

Always: a lie; an argument.

Argument: two buck hunters circle a meadow’s edge.

Edge: one of us outside bleeding.

Bleeding: shards of glass; doors locked.

Locked: carpet awash with blood.

Blood: lift and drop; a sudden breeze.

Breeze: its whistle though bone.

Bone: the other was looking at —

Bone: cradle to catch drips.

Drips: quiet as a meadow fawn.

Fawn: faces down each hunter each gun.

Gun: again.

Again: somebody call someone.

Someone: almost always prefers forgetting.

Forgetting: an argument; a lie.

Lie: a meadow; a casement; a stair.

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.

Samiya Bashir‘s poetry collection Field Theories wends its way through quantum mechanics, chicken wings and Newports, love and a shoulder’s chill, melding blackbody theory (idealized perfect absorption, as opposed to the whitebody’s idealized reflection) with real live Black bodies. Her previous books of poetry, Gospel and Where the Apple Falls, exist.

She lives in Portland, Oregon, with a magic cat who shares her obsessions with trees and blackbirds and occasionally crashes her classes and poetry salons at Reed College. Follow her on Twitter at @scryptkeeper.

Roland Dahwen Wu was born in Vermont, United States. He grew up in a remote coastal town in northern California and studied at Reed College.

He made his first documentary at the age of 20, entitled There Are No Birds in the Nests of Yesterday (Ya No Hay Pájaros en los Nidos de Ayer, 2010), on el silbo gomero, the whistled language of the Canary Islands. Since then he has worked in documentaries, video installations, translation, and photography. He is the founder of Patuá Films.

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