Kwame Dawes
Homage to Mary

For Nina Simone 

         “The Piano Lesson” by Jacob Lawrence 1988 


Someday, Southern girl, 
with your strong fingers 
stretching out to find the lost 
note of your beginnings; 
someday, black daughter, 
nappy-haired child, 
with your party-red dress, 
covering all your skin, 
you will make that heavy 
wooden casket of a piano 
a box of amazement. 
You will cause the porcelain

chandelier to sway, 
you will make grown men weep 
to hear the sweat
and sweet in your voice,

the ghosts, you’ll hear

the healing of our bones, 
the dust falling on the casket, 
the jewel of whisky in a tumbler. 
You will make us 
see in those moments, 
the face of memory, 
and the world,

the congregation gathered 
in the hall, will clap 
hands, and see Jesus, 
in the fat round 
blues of your big 
stone-ground voice, 
and this will be 
your legacy girl, 
stretching your fingers 
over the keys. 





Found In Volume 52, No. 02
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Kwame Dawes
About the Author

Kwame Dawes has authored 36 books of poetry, fiction, criticism, and essays, including, most recently, Nebraska (UNP, 2019), Bivouac (Akashic Books, 2019), and City of Bones: A Testament (Northwestern, 2017).  He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska.  Dawes is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.