Tyree Daye’s Cardinal is a generous atlas that serves as a poetic “Green Book”—the travel-cum-survival guide for black motorists negotiating racist America in the mid-twentieth century. Interspersed with images of Daye’s family and upbringing, which have been deliberately blurred, it also serves as an imperfect family album. Cardinal traces the South’s burdened interiors and the interiors of a black male protagonist attempting to navigate his many departures and returns home—a place that could both lovingly rear him and coolly annihilate him. With the language of elegy and praise, intoning regional dialect and a deliberately disruptive cadence, Daye carries the voices of ancestors and blues poets, while stretching the established zones of the black American vernacular. In tones at once laden and magically transforming, he self-consciously plots his own Great Migration: “if you see me dancing a two step/I’m sending a starless code/we’re escaping everywhere.” These are poems to be read aloud.
“[A] striking second collection of poems… Throughout, Daye investigates where Black people can find safety in a racist America, while memorably cataloguing each area’s complexities and rewards in quiet, nuanced meditations… This book provides a musical, meditative map and account of America.” —Publishers Weekly