With graphite I soften your bones,
make exotic the absence of your lash.
Your fingers – neat, elegant –
cradle a plum, the light of its juice
flaming vermillion through the taut skin.

I etch out your gaze, tender, tender
about your forehead, where the howl
of darting pain creases all. Softly,
as if with the soft lead, I can calm
it all, make it go away. You are going.

With the press of my palm’s heel
I caress the bald glow of your head,
then clean a grey line where your brows
were – now there is nothing –
these markings of what you have suffered.

These days, bodies crumble
about me; the dead, desperate for healing,
grow weary, stoic, then quietly go.

My blackened fingers make things round –
you plump as a fruit just plucked.
Tomorrow I lift you, bird of bones,
your limbs collapsed.

There is sunlight crawling across the lawn.
Despite the drought, it’s resiliently green,
except the narrow path of old sod we laid,
traumatized by neglect into a crude buzz-cut;
and this too is a symbol of our loss.

It is August in Columbia. Nothing
can fight in this heat. Just stay
still; maybe a small wind will
blow, maybe a small wind.

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