The Day Room

Keep to yourself—moms’ solemn advice but,
            as soon as I got there, they had it in for me,
long shadows, of boys I knew, in white
            isolation, jumped, cut. There was feces on the wall,
everywhere mice, spoiled milk.
            Festering, we ran inside our minds,

berserk with capture—so much chaos,
            right and wrong is weird in there.
Once we smell weakness, we on you,
            was how The Tailor put it and meant it,
daring a brawl for table rights, the poisoned food.
            Each unheard voice surrounds me,
raging, and gives no quarter.


Copyright © 2021 by Dante Micheaux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“One of many dire endeavors of late capitalism is the carceral state—both as system and condition. The latter accounts for profound loss, made most evident to me in the brief and tragically-ended life of Kalief Browder. Here, Kalief is named and speaks, as does a fellow imprisoned person, partly in his own words, partly in mine—a plausible substitution, for are we not the same when power perceives us as the same? The poem asks its readers to remember Mr. Browder and the many unnamed victims of carcerality.”
Dante Micheaux