It all comes from this dark dirt,
memory as casual as a laborer.
Remembrances of ancestors
kept in trinkets, tiny remains
that would madden anthropologists
with their namelessness.
No records, just smells of stories
passing through most tenuous links,
trusting in the birthing of seed from seed;
this calabash bowl of Great-grand
Martha, born a slave’s child;
this bundle of socks, unused
thick woolen things for the snow—
he died, Uncle Felix, before the ship
pushed off the Kingston wharf,
nosing for winter, for London.
He never used the socks, just
had them buried with him.
So, sometimes forgetting the panorama
these poems focus like a tunnel,
to a way of seeing time past,
a way of seeing the dead.
From Jacko Jacobus. Copyright © 1996 by Kwame Dawes. Used with the permission of Peepal Tree Press.