Winner of the 2020 Peseroff Prize
Thermal surveillance means to track information about people by sensing the heat radiating from their bodies and their activities. From the dystopian horrors of total surveillance, this poem shimmers in couplets, making its own privacy and interiority, tenderness and wonder.
—Oliver Baez Bendorf
Items are fabricated with silver-plated fabric that reflects thermal radiation, enabling the wearer to avert overhead thermal surveillance.
—Adam Harvey, “Stealth Wear,” 2013
Love, we’ve made it
from checkpoint to checkpoint. Please, don’t try to kiss me
in front of the window. I prefer the mirror’s reflection:
a silver lake. I’ll never be gold — never
the conductor inside the computer
or the MRI machine; nor the chime of gold bangles.
Silver clinks like sājāt, like Sito could’ve taught
me. Sito’s dilated pupils the darkest
deposits in this monochrome
photograph. Like A Christmas Story,
might I become a beloved lampshade with legs?
A nimbus cloud cut into a crop top? I will
hide my face for good this time. You keep coming back
to our final act: kissing in front of the window,
you insist, Habib/x, please. You remind me:
there’s power in numbers; like a murder in the winter,
waiting in an oak tree. You say, like the crow,
we’ve entered a Stone Age. The crow elicits an absence
of light—a hole in our sky where the brightest reds
once hung. Our tool can disappear a haji. As in,
under the table, we scatter silver
across our bodies. A good set of silverware:
one utensil for hunger & one for vanishing.
Habib/x, you say, why do you think
I’ve been dropping forks all night? Our dinner
eaten by LED Edison bulbs—their low wattage
still registers in the viewfinder. A walkie clicks,
the fire is out… Shoot for safety.
Tarik Dobbs (he/they) is an Arab American, queer writer born in Dearborn, MI. Dobbs’s poems appear soon in American Poetry Review, AGNI, and Mizna. Dobbs lives in Minneapolis.