It’s weird we don’t realize how much a city resembles a living breathing thing. We drive down arteries or main arterials. We like to go straight to the heart of the city where all the action is at. The traffic of the city flows like blood through a body. Sometimes it clogs due to some blockage. And everyone in the city feels it, there is this sense of panic underlying everything when some part of the city is threatened. If more than one part of the city is attacked by some outsider, everyone worries that they might be next and they prepare to defend or run. This could be compared to the body under attack by viruses or bacteria – perhaps police could be thought of as white blood cells, just as medical scientists call white blood cells the body’s defenders.
There is a bit of a sense of race inequality in this poem as the last lines of the poem implies. “in the white arms/hugging the black city.” The white keeping the black in place. Perhaps it is simply implying that the “white corpuscles” that the car speeds to are the ones surrounding the city, but the white man does press his locks while in the city. And the hugging seems to connotate a sort of dominance.
How strange that Urban refers to black culture when a city is made up of people from many races, including white. And suburbia is thought of as the clean and keen 1950s America which on the black and white television sets only contain white people.
There seems to be a strange message underlying this poem that that which is urban is not only blighted, but reserved for those who are blighted. The white man presses his locks to keep the riff raff out. He speeds to the smaller cells that surround the city to get out of its body as quickly as possible. The city is not white or clean with its smoky heart, darkening body and it grows rickety with its varicose veins. The suburbs, though the smaller bodies seem to be alien and pure – apart from and therefore alien to the great, dark city.
The White Man Press the Locks
by James C. Kilgore
Driving down the concrete artery,
Away from the smoky heart,
Through the darkening, blighted body,
Pausing at varicose veins,
The white man pressed the locks
on all the sedan’s doors,
Sped toward the white corpuscles
in the white arms
hugging the black city.