About the poet
Born in Ghana in 1962, Kwame Dawes moved to Jamaica in 1971 and spent most of his childhood and...
He was remembered
his name becoming a common
noun and verb in regular parlance:
(/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
Kwame Dawes Reading from his Poems