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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

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.

Kyle Dargan

Kyle Dargan

Kyle Dargan is the author of Anagnorisis (Northwestern University Press, 2018).

by this poet


On a railroad car in your America,
I made the acquaintance of a man
who sang a life-song with these lyrics:
"Do whatever you can/ to avoid
becoming a roofing man."
I think maybe you'd deem his tenor
elitist, or you'd hear him as falling
off working-class key. He sang
not from

But my loyalty
   	points—my purchasing
   	power. Nothing.

But my economies
   	of scale, my digital
   	compression :: companionship.

But my all-
   	loneliness, my rail-
   	rapid integration.

But my market-
   	driven love
   	handles, my accrued

But my taste
   	in artisanal

“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