Samiya Bashir is the author of three poetry collections: Field Theories (Nightboat Books, 2017), winner of a 2018 Oregon Book Award: the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry; Gospel (RedBone Press, 2009); and Where the Apple Falls (RedBone Press, 2005). She is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Astraea Foundation, Cave Canem, Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, National Endowment for the Arts, National League of American Pen Women, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, among others. Bashir is an associate professor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she lives.
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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.