Check out my review of Samiya Bashir's new book of poetry from independent black gay and lesbian publishing company RedBone Press. Here is an excerpt, please read the full review and join the conversation at Blackademics.org
If the body is a sacred manifestation of spirit in it’s full expression of the vibration of song and the sensation of life, what do the legal, medical and social limits we place on our bodies cost us?
“Topographic Shifts” which gracefully and painfully describes the amputation or “correction” of a baby girl born with twelve fingers and twelve toes, raises key questions as it forces us to imagine the pain of dismemberment without consent.
How is it done-
Remolding body into
Image of body?
Reminding us of Lucille Clifton’s extra digits, which haunt her writing hands like phantom antennae, this poem asks the reader to confront the ethical dilemma of the difference between how the body actually manifests, and the “image of body” what we want it to be. The poem ends with an ironic cliché that uses shallow words of comfort to disturb the reader. After detailing the process of using ether and string and scissors to “…rip. Root. Cauterize.” the “offending” or “wasteful” extra limbs of the newborn, the narrator comments that
is more common
than you’d think.
If the “condition” is “common” then what is the purpose of the violent imposition of conformity on the body of a baby? What does it mean for your body to be “wrong” from the moment you enter the world? What does it mean when we redefine our own bodies, in their natural diversity, as “offending” and “wasteful”? Whose bodies are usually marked as offending and wasteful? Is this not a question of race and class? Whose genitals are modified by doctors hoping to cure ambiguity in the birthing room? Is this not a question of gender and sexuality?