The news comes like a stone:
cancer devoured his upful locks
and a sister collected the clumps
of carefully nurtured holiness
in a plastic bag to be matted
into a wig like a crown for the
bald Natty Dread in his casket.
He fell so low and the chemo seemed
like treachery. It all turned
worthless, this fighting, this
scramble for a cure, a way out;
this confession of mortality:
O Jah, O Jah, why has thou
forsaken thy son? O Jah,
the veil is black like this night,
black like the treacherous road;
when it wet it slippery,
see me sliding, tumbling down;
see how this sickness make my soul
black as jet, caution, caution,
and my brothers, all they can say
is walk, walk, walk, walk, walk,
like the bubbling syncopations
of the synthesizer’s left-hand jumps.
But who will walk with me,
who will carry the lamp on this path,
whose breathing will reassure me
of a company waiting on the other side?
My brethren will forsake me,
I walk into so many dark places
while I wait for the coming of light.
Reggae rides the airwaves
and this island sound dark
for the passing of a song.
From Shook Foil. Copyright © 1997 by Kwame Dawes. Used with the permission of Peepal Tree Press.