When Night Fills with Premature Exits
Is there a place where black men can go
to be beautiful? Is there light there? Touch?
Is there comfort or room to raise their black
sons as anything other than a future asterisk,
at risk to be asteroid or rogue planet but not
comet—to be studded with awe and clamor
and admired for radial trajectories across
a dark sky made of asphalt and moonshine
to be celebs and deemed a magnificent sight?
Copyright © 2020 by Enzo Silon Surin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
“‘When Night Fills with Premature Exits’ was inspired by a meditation on Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet and the idea that Black people cannot conceive a world, even a different planet, where they are not feared. The ‘premature exits’ referred to in the title echo a lifelong sentiment that we die at too fast and at too high of a rate, especially as Black men, because we are not deemed worthy of being free or carefree and because those who target us, as Claudia Rankine eloquently puts it, have a hard time policing their imagination. The poem is written in the form of questions because I am on a daily quest for the answers myself, especially as the father of two beautifully radiant sons. I wanted to express the deeply rooted exasperation and exhaustion that comes with always trying to live and build a life in the gurgle of goodbyes.”
—Enzo Silon Surin