Every trick executed with that flick of my wrist,
every deft sleight of hand by me, Jacobus,

was a way to prepare the language of my path,
a way to tell how I would be met on the road.

My way was made by a winking of the eye,
for my way was perilous and the rocks were large;

and though I know that I made my bed of woes,
there was an urge to live beyond the moment,

to survive the onslaught of time’s wrath,
to make it to the other side, intact, if

somewhat tarnished by the journey.
This tracing of my many journeys,

stretches out like delicate parchment.
The roads are strewn with piles of stones

for each successful trick, each quick
foot-shuffle, working my magic like that.

And God is my light and salvation,
not because of the purity of my soul,

(that was too long ago, and besides,
I was too young to take credit for it),

but because of the prophecy of his own mouth.
Beyond me, beyond my ways, beyond it all,

there is an inexorable end he has made,
warts, deceptions, slow tongues, lies, and all.

This was the path made before me:
I bore seed to make nations tremble,

me, unworthy trickster, with too little faith
to depend on the miracle of God – I, Jacobus

made my own paths, and now swallow the bitter weed
of my fallen ways. It is faithlessness, but it is so

when you have been called to this walk of destiny;
it is all you can do to remain awake

for the fanfare and the tributes at the end of the way,
it is all you can do to be human again, it is all.

from Jacko Jacobus (Peepal Tree Press, 1996), © Kwame Dawes 1996, 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