Saturday Apr 01

Kwame-Dawes.jpg Born in Ghana and raised in Jamaica, Kwame Dawes is the author of fourteen books of poetry and many books of fiction, non-fiction, criticism and drama; and editor of several anthologies of poetry. His collection, Hope’s Hospice, appeared in the spring of 2009. Also in 2009, Dawes won an Emmy Award for the website He is Distinguished Poet in Residence at the University of South Carolina, where he directs the SC Poetry Initiative and that university’s Arts Institute. Dawes is the programming director of the Calabash International Literary Festival that takes place each May in Jamaica.

Cross Roads
                Lie down, lie down and live
               As quiet as a bone
“Once Below a Time” by Dylan Thomas
This is the dark of Babylon, tawny
prairie lands dull with light snow,
the sky heavy with gloom; my mornings
continue the nightmare of cold eating
away at the wrack of my body; so
dry, so bleak, so complete.  The Devil
is at the crossroads.  Would have preferred
to meet my panting father, his eyes
so long emptied of hope—he couldn’t
even get drunk right—how they made
him like this, his last dream blighted
by the thud on his flimsy wall,
the foreman’s bark, the burden
of cotton; the truth that there is
nothing but a beast’s emptiness
to his life, caged in the limits
of his district, caged by the rituals
of burying the dead long before
they have died, caged by the hunger
of children.  Good God, even the nastiest
sinner knows not to go get drunk
in the steamed up chapel where
Jesus promises a party in the here-
After.  Wish it was my Papa
with his big hands, with his
fistful of his fat dick asking
me if I have a problem if he
can taste some of my girl’s cream,
maybe find his way to heaven
before I do, and he beat
me off her, dropped his overalls
and made her go mute in dust
beneath the towering elms, the horse,
scrawny as these bodies of ours
ritualizing the way a man becomes
a man. I had to whip him, had
to beat on him had to make blood
come from my father’s head, had to
watch him crawl up against a tree,
look at me, tell me he will never see me
no more, never feed me no more,
like it was the biggest relief of his life,
like he had been waiting all his life
to cut me off of him for good.
And that girl, gathering her things,
told me to stay and make it right,.
She said it would be foolish to starve
over some country pussy.  “It ain’t
nothing,” she said.  “Just plain stupid
to think a nigger girl needs a hero,
like I ain’t never been screwed
by Satan looking for some heaven
in this ragged edge of life.”  Wish
it was my Daddy at the crossroads
waiting for me, but he wasn’t there.
It was just the Devil, and he got
mad ‘cause I wasn’t scared of him,
and I told him to do his worst.  What
can a fool do to me in this
cold place where everything is dark
and home don’t have a sound
no more?  So tired, dear God,
I am so damned tired deep
down in my bones; I am so
tired of walking hard, so tired
of walking through this Babylon land.

Manning, SC