cover image Dark Days: Fugitive Essays

Dark Days: Fugitive Essays

Roger Reeves. Graywolf, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-64445-241-7

Poet Reeves (Best Barbarian) interweaves autobiography and American history in his strong nonfiction debut. The elliptical opener, “Our Angel of History,” describes a photograph of a Black boy watching a Barack Obama rally in 2008 and uses the boy’s “stoic” expression as a metaphor for the necessity of having a clear-eyed understanding of the ensuing decade’s racial strife. In “Reading Fire, Reading the Stars,” Reeves suggests that interpreting “texts,” broadly, has been an integral part of Black American life, citing both runaway enslaved people who “read” the stars as they made their way north and his own childhood Bible study, which gave him the interpretive tools to become a cultural critic. One of the most poignant selections is “Letters to Michael Brown,” in which Reeves addresses a series of dispatches to the slain teenager­—who was killed by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer in 2014­—explaining that Reeves’s seven-year-old child “fears being shot when she hears sirens.” Other entries touch on hush harbors (clandestine church services enslaved people held in the woods), the death of actor Michael K. Williams, and the fiction of Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright. Reeves’s trademark lyricism (“The pit of the peach swaddled by its flesh, becoming whole there on the limb of the day”) shines throughout, proving that he’s just as affecting in prose as in verse. This impresses. (Aug.)