Rituals Before the Poem

Kwame Dawes

Rituals Before the Poem

Kwame Dawes

Rituals Before the Poem

In terror they will drink water grudgingly
Ezekiel 4

Before the poem comes like a word from a brazen sky
the poet must lie on his side for a year
eating only dry bread and measured bowls of water.

The poet must pour sand over grass and build
the walls of his city. The poet must surround
the walls with the offence of guns; and for days
upon days starve the city of all its music.

The poet’s tongue will grow heavy and his
limbs will be bound with cords so he cannot
move. He will quarrel with God about
the meaning of poetry. The poet will beg for mercy,
lying on his other side for a hundred and ninety days,
his body scarred with the wounds he inflicts on his family.

All this a poet does before a poem so that
when he walks out in midwinter, his face
will be smooth, his eyes will have the quiet resignation
we call peace, and his satchel will be full
of whimsical lyrics about the colour green
and the sounds a whore makes in her dreams.

from Wheels (Peepal Tree Press, 2011), © Kwame Dawes 2011, used by permission of the author and the publisher.


Kwame Dawes

Kwame Dawes Reading from his Poems

1Thelmas Precious Cargo

2Alado Seanadra


4Progeny of Air


6Psalm 36




10Land Ho

11Some Tentative Definitions I

12Shook Foil 13Your Hands 14Impossible Flying 15Found 16In the Bone 17Prognosis


19Rituals Before the Poem

20African Postman 21Mother of Mothers 22A Complex Ageless Longing 23Upon our 14th Anniversary