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
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.