Kwame Dawes
On Becoming

The painting is of a door, its wood so warped

with moisture it cannot close. It stays ajar


leaving a sliver of light—enough to suggest

something sweet and almost unreachable


behind the door—and you sit in your

room working on the bills or those comforting


lists that make you believe you have

finally created time, wide open spaces


of emptiness, you are free to use or not use;

but you keep looking at that gap, keep


peering in, trying to see what is there, and

occasionally you get up and touch it,


as if you might feel it, what is there.

I am being coy. I am not talking about


you, but me. And it is not a door,

but a painting of a naked woman sitting


like a pear on a perch, her knees drawn up

to her chest, her head buried between her knees,


her feet touching, and the shadow between

her shins, and her thighs whispering


flesh. Those fingers of her left hand

carry the string of a yoyo, bouncing


like a sandwich pushcart below her toes.

Those are the only things that move


on this woman whose silence, the silence

of her body, is what moves me to speak.




Found In Volume 51, No. 01
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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.