“Daily Conscription”

by Kyle Dargan

We can no longer afford that particular romance.
—James Baldwin

Brother Rickey halts me before I cross East
Capitol. He trumpets that we are at war.

I want to admit that I don’t believe in “white”
—in the manner that Baldwin did not—but Brother

Rickey would simply retort that my disbelief
is no immunity from the imaginations of those

who think themselves “white.” As we await
the stoplight’s shift—so I may walk and he may

holler “Final Call!” between lanes of idle traffic—I
think of race as something akin to climate change,

a force we don’t have to believe in for it to undo us.
I once believed in the seasons. (I fantasize

fall as Brother Rickey’s favorite—when
his suits, boxy and plaid, would be neither too hot nor

thin.) But we are losing spring and fall—tripping
from blaze to frost and back. And what’s to say

we won’t soon shed another season, one of these
remaining two, and live on either an Earth

of molten streets or one of frozen light? That’s when
worlds end, no—when, after we’ve eradicated

ourselves, we become faint fossils to be exhumed
by the curiosities of whichever life-forms follow

our reign? I still owe Brother Rickey two dollars
for the paper he last placed in my hand, calling me

“soldier.” I don’t have to believe that I am enlisted
in order to understand he’ll forgive my debt

so long as this idea of “whiteness” sorties above us—
ultraviolet, obliging an aseasonal, unending deployment.

Released by the signal, I advance—my head down,
straining to discern the crossfire from the cover.

Kyle-Dargan
Kyle Dargan. Photo: Marlene Hawthorne Thomas

KYLE DARGAN is the author of four collections of poetry—Honest Engine (2015), Logorrhea Dementia (2010), Bouquet of Hungers (2007), and The Listening (2004). For his work, he has received the 2019 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. His books also have been finalists for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize. Dargan has partnered with the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities to produce poetry programming at the White House and Library of Congress. He has worked with and supports a number of youth writing organizations, such as 826DC, Writopia Lab, and the Young Writers Workshop. He is currently an associate professor of literature and director of creative writing at American University, as well as the founder and editor of POST NO ILLS magazine.

From Anagnorisis: Poems. ©2017 by Kyle Dargan. Published 2018 by TriQuarterly/
Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.

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