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Kyle Dargan

The Erotic Is a Measure Between

About this Poem 

“I’ve kept Audre Lorde’s essay ‘Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power’ close by me ever since Nikky Finney introduced me to the work at the Cave Canem retreat many years ago. So much of sexuality is posited as something enacted upon women by hetero men. I wanted to complicate or challenge that notion. While re-reading Lorde’s essay in preparation for a panel discussion on taboo and sexuality in African-American poetry, a line from Lorde (which is now the title) gave me an avenue to attempt that.”
Kyle Dargan

The Erotic Is a Measure Between

Kyle Dargan

after Lorde

Your body is not my pommel horse
nor my Olympic pool or diving board.
Your body is not my personal Internet
channel nor my timeline,
nor my warm Apollo spotlight.
Your body is not my award
gala. Your body is not my game—
preseason or playoffs.
Your body is not my political party
convention. Your body is not
my frontline or my war’s theatre.
Your body is not my time
trial. Your body is not my entrance
exam or naturalization interview.
I am a citizen of this skin—that
alone—and yours is not to be
passed nor won. What is done—
when we let our bodies sharpen
the graphite of each other’s bodies
—is not my test, not my solo
show. One day I’ll learn. I’ll prove
I know how to lie with you without
anticipating the scorecards of your eyes,
how I might merely abide—we two
unseated, equidistant from the wings
in a beating black box, all stage.
 

Copyright © 2015 by Kyle Dargan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 3, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Kyle Dargan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 3, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

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May Swenson at Joshua Tree National Park. Used With Permission of the Literary Estate of May Swenson.
poem

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
Maya Angelou
1978
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