sold for poker chips
left cold left thawed left
bent into the yawp
This is the title poem from Bashir’s 2017 collection, described by publisher Nightboat as “melding blackbody theory (idealized perfect absorption, as opposed to the whitebody’s idealized reflection) with real live Black bodies”. That makes an incredible metaphor, doesn’t it.
While I have some grasp of that description, I’m afraid I have little grasp of the poem except in bits and pieces, individual phrases that stand out to me. It’s a poem that begs to be read out loud, with some phrases sounding much more interesting than they look on the page (“We’ll / build a fort and fill it / with maple trees gone gaudy // with cobalt wishing stones”. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to work?
It includes references to slavery, to darkness, Christianity, mythology, and no doubt a hundred things I’m not able to pick up on. Again I’m in the position of wanting to apologize for not being able to read well enough.
… Huh ? music ?
music anyone ever really heard us sing?
let’s move this :anyone ever asked ?
even so we sing all day period even so we pass
our days whatever ways we can –
we know some folks don’t listen.
Just look. And trace. Look :
what is a thing of beauty
if not us
What is a thing of beauty
if not us?
That “thing of beauty” stanza appears three times in slightly different form, including the final stanza above, which does not end with a period, indicating the continuing repetition, maybe intended to be repeated until it’s believed, by us, by them, by everyone.