At dawn, the courthouse, grumpy
as looming shadows, scowls over
the town—the men move as a
body of thick coats, cotton, shirts,
worn thin pants smelling of old food,
smoke and cigarettes. They stand waiting
for the truck, for the planter,
for the landowner, for the money-
bags, for the constable, for
the loiter police, for the colonel
with his special bloody unit,
for the preacher preaching of gifts
waiting on the other side
of these shadows, of bodies
broken by the deals we make
to calm the hunger in our
multitude of churning stomachs.
The truck rumbles over
cobblestones, the sinister
music of squeaking shocks and
pulleys over the moan of the engine.
The truck stops with a sigh.
The motor grumbles then stalls.
A single light cuts through
the gloom, coming from the court
house. No one moves,
the crowd heaves like breath.
~ Kwame Dawes
Kwame Dawes is the author of over thirty books of poetry, prose, drama and criticism and is one of the Caribbean’s leading contemporary writers. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and a Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. He is Associate Poetry Editor for Peepal Tree Press in the UK. Among his recent publications are ‘Wheels’ (Peepal, 2011) and ‘Duppy Conqueror: new and selected poems’ (Copper Canyon Press, 2013).