Yap

He was remembered
his name becoming a common
noun and verb in regular parlance:

A yap

(/yap/ n. yap yappist /ya-pest/vi yap yapped /yap-t/[Youthful innovation Jamaica College] (1974) 1: HOMOSEXUAL usually considered obscene; 2: battyman and specialist in homosexual practices; 3: the scourge of school boys; 4: their secret fear when clandestine hands cause self-inflicted sticky orgasms; 5: something no boy admits he is to other boys. (no longer in common usage)

A gentle boy with a sharp tongue,
he played chess quickly, aggressively
winning with a laugh – played football

in a torn yellow shirt and red shorts;
his father sold radios and calculators
in an air-conditioned appliance store

somewhere downtown and made good money.
They lured him into the piss-stink toilet
flooded with loose water and shit,

its blue walls scarred with obscenities,
secrets about teachers, yearnings,
hieroglyphics of a twisted culture.

Nunez, the short Syrian, was the bait
with his tight pants and benign smile;
securing his heterosexual credentials

despite his lisp and delicate eyes.
They lured Yap into the toilet
where he thought he’d find a friend.

They beat his head till blood
washed the soaked cement floor
and his blue shirt turned purple.

This dizzy day of crows circling
heating to a haze the old cream buildings,
and lonely on the feet-worn dust

under the tamarind tree
sat Yap, wiping the blood
from his broken teeth,

tears streaming, frantic to find words
to explain why he wanted to leave
this school and why his shirt was wet

like that. The Citroen sailed in
and stopped. The door opened, swallowed
Yap. The Citroen sailed out.


from Progeny of Air (Peepal Tree Press,1994), © Kwame Dawes 1994, used by permission of the author and the publisher

Recordings

Kwame Dawes Reading for his Poems

1Thelmas Precious Cargo

2Alado Seanadra

3Yap

4Progeny of Air

5Confessional

6Psalm 36

7Covenant

8Trickster

9Requiem

10Land Ho

11Some Tentative Definitions I

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

18Wheels

19Rituals Before the Poem

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

24Sketch