Poem: “Dirt” by Kwame Senu Neville Dawes

0 Posted by - November 27, 2020 - Black History, History, LATEST POSTS, Poems

Kwame Senu Neville Dawes is a Ghanaian poet, actor, editor, critic, musician, and former Louis Frye Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of South Carolina.

Dawes was born in Ghana in 1962 to Sophia and Neville Dawes, and in 1971 the family moved to Kingston, Jamaica, when Neville Dawes became deputy director of the Institute of Jamaica. Growing up in Jamaica, Kwame Dawes attended Jamaica College and the University of the West Indies at Mona, where he received a BA degree in 1983. He studied and taught in New Brunswick, Canada, on a Commonwealth Scholarship. In 1992 he earned a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of New Brunswick, where he was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Brunswickan.

In 2009, Dawes won an Emmy Award in the category of New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming: Arts, Lifestyle & Culture. In 2014, the African Poetry Book Fund arose with Dawes as the founding editor.


Kwame Dawes

I got one part of it. Sell them watermelons and get me another part. Get Bernice to sell that piano and I’ll have the third part.
—August Wilson

We who gave, owned nothing,
learned the value of dirt, how
a man or a woman can stand
among the unruly growth,
look far into its limits,
a place of stone and entanglements,
and suddenly understand
the meaning of a name, a deed,
a currency of personhood.
Here, where we have labored
for another man’s gain, if it is fine
to own dirt and stone, it is
fine to have a plot where
a body may be planted to rot.
We who have built only
that which others have owned
learn the ritual of trees,
the rites of fruit picked
and eaten, the pleasures
of ownership. We who
have fled with sword
at our backs know the things
they have stolen from us, and we
will walk naked and filthy
into the open field knowing
only that this piece of dirt,
this expanse of nothing,
is the earnest of our faith
in the idea of tomorrow.
We will sell our bones
for a piece of dirt,
we will build new tribes
and plant new seeds
and bury our bones in our dirt.





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