The whole earth is filled with the love of God.
     In the backwoods, the green light
is startled by blossoming white petals,
     soft pathways for the praying bird
dipping into the nectar, darting in starts
     among the tangle of bush and trees.
My giddy walk through this speckled grotto
     is drunk with the slow mugginess
of a reggae bassline, finding its melody
     in the mellow of the soft earth’s breath.
I find the narrow stream like a dog sniffing,
     and dip my sweaty feet in the cool.
While sitting in this womb of space
     the salad romantic in me constructs a poem. This is all I
           can muster
     before the clatter of schoolchildren
searching for the crooks of guava branches
     startles all with their expletives and howls;
the trailing snot-faced child wailing perpetual—
     with ritual pauses for breath and pity.
In their wake I find the silver innards of discarded
      cigarette boxes, the anemic pale of tossed
condoms, the smashed brown sparkle of Red Stripe
     bottles, a mélange of bones and rotting fruit,
there in the sudden white light of noon.


      How quickly the grandeur fades into a poem,
how easily everything of reverie starts to crumble.
     I walk from the stream. Within seconds
sweat soaks my neck and back; stones clog my shoes,
     flies prick my flaming face and ears,
bramble draws thin lines of blood on my arms.
     There is a surfeit of love hidden here;
at least this is the way faith asserts itself.
     I emerge from the valley of contradictions,
my heart beating with the effort, and stand looking
     over the banking, far into Kingston Harbor
and the blue into gray of the Caribbean Sea.
     I dream up a conceit for this journey
and with remarkable snugness it fits;
     this reggae sound: the bluesy mellow
of a stroll on soft, fecund earth, battling the crack
     of the cross-stick; the scratch of guitar,
the electronic manipulation of digital sound,
     and the plaintive wail of the grating voice.
With my eyes closed, I am drunk with the mellow,
     swimming, swimming among the green of better days;
and I rise from the pool of sound, slippery with
     the warm cling of music on my skin,
and enter the drier staleness of the road
     that leads to the waiting city of fluorescent lights.

From Shook Foil. Copyright © 1997 by Kwame Dawes. Used with the permission of Peepal Tree Press.

Twin Poets Al Mills and Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha perform “Hello Beautiful”


Hello beautiful
Who you looking at like that?
I don't know why you keep looking at me like that.
Girl, I don't know why
You don't Let the corners of your mouth curl and point to the sky
And who are you looking at you with those old ugly eyes
Trying to tell me those little ugly lies
About how we not pretty enough
How our hair is too short and how our features are too strong and rough
I swear you need to get your eyes checked
Because here you go again with that same old mess
About how she look better and how you like her hair
But don't you think they’re saying the same thing when they look in the mirror

Blah blah blah, I heard it all before
You don't like our eyes, our nose, our cheekbones and your lips for sure
And don't even get me started on my pimples and blackheads
I wish mom would just get me some Proactive like the other kids
Then my skin would look better and everyone would tell me how cute I am
Snap out of it, when did hating our gifts become a part of the plan?

You think that you want to be like her
But she is just doing the same thing she saw somebody else do
The flyest thing of all is just you being you
So just smile because you can't be number two
Because there is only one you
So let's make a pact and agree
That when you look in the mirror from now on
You will be amazed at all the beauty you see
When you look at me: I want you to see
My face as a priceless jewel
A full sunflower, peach blossom in bloom

I want you to see all the marks of beauty that make me unique
Gaze at my features stroll your fingers down my cheek
See the rainbow that are my eyebrows, right above the roses that our my eyes
And in the middle of my coronation and lily cheeks is my lotus flower for a nose
While my mouth is as beautiful as jasmine and ginger
See my smile, notice I no longer have 2 lips
I have tulips, orchids and daises
I know to see me this way for the first time is amazing

But we’re in this together: me and you
And if you forever see the beauty in me, I'll forever show the beauty in you
When you look at me
I want you to smile and want to take a selfie
So when you greet me tomorrow morning and say hello beautiful
I won't be surprised
I'll just know you now you see the beautiful flower you are on the inside

From Our Work, Our Words… Poems on the pavement (Meja Books, 2015) Copyright © 2015 by Twin Poets. Used with permission of the Twin Poets Al Mills and Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha.