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By Kwame Dawes

South Carolina, c.1950

You got that clean waistcoat,

the bright white of a well-tailored

shirt, you got those loose-as-sacks

slacks and some spit-polished shoes,

and you know, whether you are looking

like money, or about to take a stroll,

to tilt that hat like you own

the world; yeah, smoke your pipe,

roll your tobacco, and hold loose

as authority, your muscles, lithe

and hard; and every so often, when

you feel the urge, you reach into the waist

pocket and pull out that watch on its

chain, then look in the sky and say

Gonna be a cold one when it come,

like God gave you that fancy clock

to tell the future. These are the easy

boys of the goodly South; waiting for

what is out of frame to happen:

the sheriff with his questions, the

paddy wagon, the chain gang, the weight

of the world. Waiting, with such delicate

dignity, fickle as the seasonal sky.


Notes:

The epigraph of this poem was originally omitted in the changeover to the new website. Because of this, reciting the epigraph is optional for the 2019-2020 Poetry Out Loud season.

Source: Poetry (April 2018)

  • Activities
  • Living
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Kwame Dawes
Born in Ghana in 1962, Kwame Dawes spent most of his childhood in Jamaica. Dawes’s work reporting on HIV/AIDS in Haiti after the earthquake formed a key component of reporting done by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting that won the National Press Club Joan Friedenberg Award for Online Journalism and was released as Voices of Haiti (2012). Dawes is currently the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. The co-founder and programming directory of the Calabash International Literary Fesitval, he also teaches in the Pacific MFA Writing Program and is on the faculty of Cave Canem.

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