Kwame Dawes | Poetry

The man who carries his yoga
mat rolled up under his arm
walking through his city, is the
man I have longed to be. It is as
if he will live forever. This
is what I can say of exile;
a body like me has lost track
of the narrative of mortality.

It is the brittle dry air
of these prairies, the wide open
fields, the soil that has grown
too hard for burial.

It is easy to mistake
the long-lived farm people
of white Lutheran stock,
for kindred souls. I was born
a long way from here,
in a city that turned into
a village within hearing
distance, and the deep red
soil of Accra knows it is
always prepared for the deep
warmth of cankering bodies,
for the spirits that treat
the trees and roads as temporary
dwellings before the teeming
underneath of performance.

In Kingston, where I was replanted,
I considered death each day,
its friendship with the living;
where we die as if the body
is made for this and nothing else.

It is true that among these Midwestern
people, I want to forget myself,
I want to forget that the deep
funk in my skin is my
brokenness steaming in
these late days of my life. Even
my doctor thinks I will live
longer; but I know that
the back end of this year, when
Lincoln’s earth grows stony
with hoarfrost, I will be transported
to Jamaica—St. Mary’s dark
green forestation, where I will
land and walk out into
the morning barefooted, un-shirted,
and stand in the soft dark
soil, my weight pressing me
into its familiar give and embrace.

And this warm circling of air
is the comfort of all saints;
to gain, and gain and gain.