Kwame Dawes
Fire

He is the man with the axe with its white edge.
He was born to a time of fire.
He took a pickaxe and walked to the rail
track and asked for work; and he stood
by the sparks and forging fire, standing
there as if the heat is food, pure food.
He is the forger of plans, and the man
who has vowed to be a friend
of fire, vowed to teach all flame
the democracy of heat.  He was
born to a time of fire; a man
born to turn broken engines
into piston and grease, a man that sees
the world as a machine, everything
will atrophy; all fires muster die,
but while the bellows blow.  Here is
an ordinary man, big hands, big 
dreams, moving through the earth;
a stranger always, as sojourner.
Trains thunder through the green   
world; a farm stretches away
from him, to cross from one end
of the country to the other, is
the journey from fence to fence,
the grand expanse of someone else’s
land that he knows like it is his.
Above, the crackle of a low flying
plane, and in the river, the clunking
of a steam boat—this is progress,
this is the machine, and a black 
man stands in the edge of the monstrosity
of iron and knows he must
be a forge where all heat will channel
energy.  Where a body can move,
break ground, full hands, where
a man can be at the top, commending
the elements; these are the days
of fire, the days of charred bodies
dangling fro trees, the days
of burnt out towns, negroes running
to find their way in the belly
of cities, these are the days
when fire must meet fire
he was born to a time of fire,
let him burn, baby, let him burn.

 
Found In Volume 41, No. 01
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Kwame Dawes
About the Author

Born in Ghana in 1962, Kwame Dawes spent most of his childhood in Jamaica.  His book Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius remains the most authoritative study of the lyrics of Bob Marley. His collections of poetry include Wisteria: Poems From the Swamp Countryand Impossible Flying.