HOW NOT TO STAY UNSHOT IN THE U.S.A.

EAT GARLIC. GO TO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. ATTEND A COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL. SEE A POP STAR SING. GO TO THE MOVIES. TEACH CREATIVE WRITING. PLAY LOUD MUSIC ON CAR SPEAKERS BUT BE BLACK. ATTEND MIDDLE SCHOOL. ASK SOMEONE ABOUT THE LOUD MUSIC COMING FROM THEIR CAR SPEAKERS BUT BE BLACK. SWIM BUT BE BLACK. LAY ABOUT A POOL NOT SWIMMING BUT BEING BLACK. BE BLACK. SHOP. BE WHITE. HUNT. BE NOT-WHITE. RIDE YOUR BIKE. BE AT HOME. BE IN HIGH SCHOOL. BE FROM THE STATES. BE FROM ANYWHERE ELSE. GO TO TEMPLE. PLAY OUTSIDE. PLAY INSIDE. HAVE A GUN. HAVE BIBLE STUDY. DON’T HAVE A GUN. JOIN THE ARMY. HAVE A PARTY. BE GAY. BE STRAIGHT. GO TO WORK. WATCH FOOTBALL. HAVE WAFFLES WHERE THEY HAVE A HOUSE. MAKE SOCIAL MEDIA. BASICALLY BE ANYWHERE NEAR AN AIRPORT. VISIT THE MALL. CHILL AT THE BAR. GO TO THE BEACH. PLAY IN THE PLAYGROUND. BE PREGNANT AND MAYBE WANNA NOT BE PREGNANT. GO TO SLEEP IN YOUR OWN DAMNED BED. STOP FOR GAS. GET GROCERIES. GO TO CHURCH. BE A VETERAN. BE A NURSE. BE A COLLEGE STUDENT. TAKE A SPA DAY. SIGHT-SEE. AIR TRAVEL. SERVE AN ORDER OF PROTECTION. JOIN THE NAVY. PLAY SANTA. SIT SHABBAT. STOP TO GET A COFFEE. BE A JOURNALIST. LIVE ON THE STREETS. CALL THE POLICE IN AN EMERGENCY. WORK IN CIVIL SERVICE. WAIT FOR A BUS. TAKE THE BUS. DIE, THUS MAKING SOMEONE SAD. BE MAD. PARENT. BE PARENTED. BE ALONE. HAVE A FAMILY. WATCH TV WITH FAMILY. BREAK UP WITH SOMEONE. TAKE AN UBER. TEACH IN ANY SCHOOL, ANYWHERE. ANSWER YOUR FRONT DOOR. KNOCK ON SOMEONE ELSE’S FRONT DOOR. BE MAYBE JUST A LITTLE BIT CRAZY, NO HARM. BE A MARINE. MAKE NEWSPAPERS. BE SOMEONE’S GIRLFRIEND. HELP. GO TO GRADUATE SCHOOL. DANCE AT THE CLUB. GO TO THE BANK. WRITE. READ BUT OUTSIDE. BE TAKEN HOSTAGE, WHICH USED TO BE KIND OF SAFE? GO TO COURT. BE SOMEONE’S WIFE. DELIVER PACKAGES AND/OR FOOD. BE A NEIGHBOR. ROAM YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. NEED YOUR NEIGHBOR. ATTEND A WORKPLACE TRAINING. CONGRESS. HAVE EITHER WALLS OR DOORS. BE A SPORT. DRIVE A CAR. EAT PANCAKES WHILE SITTING IN THEIR VERY OWN INTERNATIONAL HOUSE. BE A REFUGEE, HAVING ESCAPED GETTING SHOT SOMEWHERE ELSE. CHECK OUT A LIBRARY BOOK. PAUSE AT A REST STOP, HOPING TO REST. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE. BE A DOCTOR. GO TO A PARK. TAKE A TRAIN. ATTEND MOSQUE. BE A COP (PLEASE, STOP). IMMIGRATE. HAVE OR BE AN IN-LAW. WALK ACROSS CAMPUS. PROTEST. SELL CARS. McCHILL. SHARE SOME FROYO. SPEAK WHATEVER LANGUAGE YOU WANT TO SPEAK. WALK DOWN THE STREET, ANY STREET. WANT SOME CHICKEN. BE A SECRETARY. STAY IN A HOTEL. BE A PATIENT. LIVE ON THE RESERVATION. STAY IN A DORMITORY. HANDLE YOUR POST-OFFICE BUSINESS. RUN FOR OFFICE. HOMECOMING. BE IN A PARKING LOT. FISH IN THE RIVER BY THE ROAD. FIND YOURSELF IN DESPERATE NEED OF HELP. EAT ICE CREAM. LIVE IN AN APARTMENT. TAKE THE KIDS TO A PIZZA SHOP RUN BY A GIANT MOUSE. LIVE OFF THE RESERVATION. SEEK CUSTODY OF YOUR CHILDREN. GO TO LAW SCHOOL. CRAVE CHOW MEIN. TRADE STOCKS. SAY “MA’AM, THIS IS A WENDY’S” BECAUSE YOU ARE, INDEED, AT A WENDY’S. ANCHOR TELEVISION NEWS. DATE, LIKE, ANYONE REALLY. MARRY, LIKE, ANYONE REALLY. RUN OUT OF GAS. HAVE A CHILD. BE A CHILD. LIVE IN A HOUSE. LOVE A CHILD.

— Samiya Bashir (from Ecotone Magazine)

This poetry is part of I Hope This Helps, an installation first shown as part of the exhibition Cinque Mostre 2020: Convergence, at the American Academy in Rome. The text is printed on one of twenty standards, or flags, built to stand in for the artist’s body in performance, the poem’s place within the pages of a book, and the conversations we too often relegate to theory or therapy.