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Manistee Lights

By Samiya Bashir

Brother I don't either understand this
skipscrapple world that is--these
slick bubble cars zip feverish down
paved rushes of notcorn of notbeets
of notcabbage and the land and the land--

You should know, man, nothing
grows down here anymore except
walloped wishes and their gouged out
oil cans. Where bloodroot might span our

distance sit these bars land mined in the sand
lit from the inside eye these cages they twist us
they tornado us. No.

I don't understand. Not those grates
not the grackles circling overblind
all perched so close to the beach there
we could smell winter freeze. In spring

did the wind bring the scent of smelt?
Remember? Even strike years mother
found smelt by the fingery bagful
and fried them almost whole.
It was almost enough.

Added: Wednesday, July 9, 2014  /  Originally published in Taos Journal of Poetry and Art. Used with permission.
Samiya Bashir

Samiya Bashir’s books of poetry, Field Theories (Nightboat Books, 2017), Gospel, and Where the Apple Falls, and anthologies, including Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social & Political Black Literature & Art, exist. Sometimes she makes poems of dirt. Sometimes zeros and ones. Sometimes variously rendered text. Sometimes light. Her work has been widely published, performed, installed, printed, screened, experienced, and Oxford comma’d. Bashir holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, where she served as Poet Laureate, and an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she received two Hopwood Poetry Awards. She is the recipient of numerous grants, fellowships, residencies, prizes, and is a founding organizer of Fire & Ink, an advocacy organization and writer’s festival for LGBT writers of African descent. Bashir has collaborated on a number of multimedia poetry and art projects including M A P S :: a cartography in progress, and Silt, Soot, and Smut, with Alison Saar, both of which travel the country in exhibition and performance. Bashir lives with a magic cat who shares her love of trees and blackbirds, and who occasionally crashes her classes and poetry salons at Reed College in Portland, Ore. Visit her website.

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