Two Poems by Kwame Dawes

Stillness

 

When all the talking
is over, she sits
alone in this room

heavy with the scent
of hair grease
and the dull cold

after the fire has gone
down the embers.
She stares down.

The snug fit
of the boards
in the floor she has

polished three days
a week to a soft
glow, old wood giving

in to her push
and circle; she looks
up at the window,

sees a sky crowded
out by the elm's
leaves, and a bird,

a pigeon, hops
from limb to sill,
then quickly

in a darting flutter
is gone. She hears
the sound

of the whistle,
and she feels in that
moment as if home

is too far away
and flight is too high
a price to pay.

Then she feels
the rock and rumble
of the train in her bones.

Mist

 

I am a graveyard.
Here, there is no mourning,
the dead are dumb as wood,

I have forgotten how to cry
because I can see spirits
as if the graves have broken

open on that red
resurrection morning.
The earth is a mansion

with many floors;
the layering of centuries,
the spirits strolling;

no one crosses the plain;
so many millions
gone, only to return

as if there are many
earths transparent
as the glassy film

of ice over a pond.
I don't know names
anymore; the spirits

is what we call them,
are soft as clouds,
or mist, they travel

these days, I stand
before a boiling pot
until it dries and cracks,

all the steam
caressing me like the love
of the dead. Healing

comes from the spray
of iron on damp cloth,
healing is the scent

of burning, the faltering
of crushed cloth,
the sweat of labor.

I am a graveyard,
wet with sea fog,
my memories

will not let me go.
I am staring upwards
looking for blue

sky through
the crowd of souls
streaking the heavens.