Nov/Dec 2019 • Vol. XLI No. 6 PoetryNovember 2, 2019 |

Lagos

That it is an island arrives as something of a revelation — but that is not the word, for I have known this in the music and the poems and the way water is part of all rituals of cleansing and all fears of dying, the way the memory of my ancestors is a memory of flooding and ebbs and flows of waves and the thick mangroves by the water, the way in novels when the eye is pulled back so far to picture a woman walking across a savannah with a baby tucked snugly and safely on her back. This image repeats itself as we dally through the Lagos traffic, all deep blues and grays and the asphalt brown of road and wheels, and just like that, the startling grace of a woman, the same, in a fabric of flame yellow and red, her head elaborately tied, and around her the taut cloth holding a baby, as she swoops and leans on the back of an Honda S90, barking and sighing through the traffic, slowing for the deep-water pots, then speeding into spaces, until suddenly, he stops, and she

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Kwame Dawes is the author of numerous books of poetry and other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. His most recent collection, UnHistory, was cowritten with John Kinsella (Peepal Tree Press, 2022). Dawes is a George W. Holmes University Professor of English and the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner. He teaches in the Pacific University MFA Program and is the series editor of the African Poetry Book Series, director of the African Poetry Book Fund, and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival. He is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Dawes is the winner of the prestigious Windham Campbell Prize for Poetry and was a finalist for the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. In 2022, Dawes was awarded the Order of Distinction, Commander class, by the Government of Jamaica.

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The Stink

By Kwame Dawes

That it is an island arrives as something of a revelation — but that is not the word, for I have known this in the music and the poems and the way […]

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