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

The Stink

The eyes can become seared. Change your country, the light changes, the earth changes, the sky can be as comforting as the new unfamiliar place you have fled to. And in these cities, if you are cautious, you can void the sound of voices making words; even the screams of the voice of those quarreling or pleading or dying, you can protect yourself from those triggers. But shit is shit. Left alone for a minute, fresh —  shit is shit. And sick is sick — that acidic residue of a bowel’s emptying —  shit and sick and the way flesh burns. That smell is the last preserve of your horror, and this is what no one can bring to us with words or photos or films or music. We only know this catholic language of suffering by the shit, the puke and the smoke. This is how I know I will always be sick, dear God, this is how I know such things.

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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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Lagos

By Kwame Dawes

The eyes can become seared. Change your country, the light changes, the earth changes, the sky can be as comforting as the new unfamiliar place you have fled to. And […]

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