Touring the Penn Center, St. Helena’s, SC

I am wading through the dark morass of history,
Beaufort at dusk fills with humid air from the swamps
and the mangrove of stagnant sea water’s calm
rice ponds, and the muttering old spirits,
the sharp lament of crickets and the trees close in
on us. The ground gives, stretches of white
sand, fresh earth that will not hold bodies.
Everything shifts here and the apocalypse of bodies
given up on holy nights is a common ritual.
I am teaching them about the bloody rituals
of human chattel, shattering all myths, all excuses—
the doctrine that it was ignorance, sheer prehistoric
stupidity that allowed such brute disregard
for the black soul. I am aware of how callous
these students grow to ward off the piss fear
of having no recourse but to weep or shed blood—
truth is the smashing of old comforts. I am telling
Carlos, Jerry, Uniqua to look into the past
of these South lands to find the squalid
histories of their blood; and why must I
offer them such heavy truths, these black
boys and girls who seem desperate for a language
of survival? Oh, that it was not anger, this lesson
of memory I now teach, but how can we touch
such gummy memory without ire? We must all learn
why we tear to hear a blue lament, a flat-toned
spiritual or see the stiff dangling image of a man,
a backdrop for a picnic? This room with its bland
track lighting—this modern orderly space—
grows dense with earth and trees, the stench
of death. In the photo gallery, the faces stare back
at us: country, African, crude images of ourselves—
the students point and laugh as if afraid to admit
the truth staring back shyly in black and white.
Before anger comes the shame or something mocking
like inexplicable laughter. I offer them love—
what I think is the narrative of survival,
then we listen to Mos Def as we drive through
the swamp, the blackening Atlantic at our backs.


Source: BOMB Magazine — Four Poems by Kwame Dawes

simply streaming day 1

July 16, 2010

yesterday, i blogged under a new theme: simply streaming: writing whatever comes to mind and posting. i’ve decided to set myself the challenge of simply streaming for 30 days starting today. of course  being a writer, such posts will be edited – minimally.  as someone commented on a previous blog, i rarely use capitalization when i’m blogging. in fact, as a poet, i find the whole capital – lowercase thing problematic. i never like how my poems look when i use standard grammatical rules. poems are not novels. novels are supposed to have structure…even if it’s a deconstructed structure. so to free myself of constraints in this undertaking , you will rarely see capital letters in simply streaming. let the words flow like water…undammed.

shitty dreams. shitty dreamers. that’s just want floated through my mind at this moment in time. it’s a kinda harsh juxtaposition: shit and dreams. maybe that’s why i don’t like either kind. who knows. i do know that a decision i made about five years ago was the right one. i also begin to understand that why i entered this year thinking it’s gonna be my year. i thought whatever it was about this year that made it “mine”, was going to involve writing but now i realize it’s all about independence and declaring it. i am free now. the die is cast and it spells out amandla tichaona.

freedom, of course, is scary. scary and humbling. but every person in the world, i repeat, every person in the world deserves freedom simply by being born and as i so aptly wrote in my younger years: i wasn’t born to die.

napowrimo 2010

May 1, 2010

i didn’t make it. thirty poems in thirty days seems to be beyond me. last year i lasted about a week. this year, i did about a total of two weeks worth but it was haphazard. some days, i wouldn’t write/post anything. two days later, i’d write/post two or three poems.  the week my son was on april vacation, i didn’t write/post anything. oh well. so it goes…or so i thought until i did a mental run through.

i already knew poems have gestational periods but i learned i can hold the amniotic sac of a poem in my mind until i can tend to it. I learned i can craft the lil pieces of life released from the sac into something worthy of sharing…as well as being the seed of something greeter. i’ve also learned not to neglect what’s left behind in the sac.  basically, i learned to be a tiny bit more disciplined with the craft i call my calling.

30 days will come
and 30 days will go
with the assignment incomplete
but still
i be smithing
into new iron