Two Poems

Kwame Dawes

Pusher

Angelus of mercy,
Al was the Pope

walking through the squalor
of an unfeeling world –

yes, sometimes, numbed by his stuff,
he floated among the giddy children

bestowing vials of mercy,
brittle vials of mercy for the pain.

At first it was not the money,
just a simple act of revolution;

a way to stir the darkness
of defeated descendants of slaves

to something more volatile,
something like the bebop madness

of Miles, Coltrane, or the crazy
dreamings of Monk the magician,

something that would make
the bossman sleep uneasy at night,

with gun loaded beneath his pillow,
his daughters strapped to their beds

for fear they might catch wind
of this jazz in the air

and go low riding
near the barracks.

It was this at first,
this way to liven the drabness

of nothing lives,
this merciful act

that got him in the business.
But missionary work is fleeting,

and the money became the cause,
what with babies coming from his scrotum

and the pittance from the bossman
not making ends meet; and the thugs

in New York looking for expansion
into the slumbering South.

So, Al, the Pope of Hog Town,
donned his missal and issued

his mercy, for a price,
a simple indulgence of gratitude

while the jazz grew slow and mute
and the brothers floated through their dreams

not touching earth, not touching nothing
on their path through the trees.

And Al prospered
before the Lord.

Psalm 36

Even at night, laid out like in a coffin,
   he can’t sleep for the evil in his heart,

he is weaving baskets to catch fish
   swimming home in fish water,

that is the sinfulness of the wicked;
   so that his wife does not know

why he turns and turns all night
   mouth muttering like there are pebbles in his heart.

There is an oracle in my heart
   tells me to speak like this;

but I am not a prophet, just a player
   of songs, a lyrics man, and two sacs

of seed, blessed seed to spawn a generation
   of miracle makers, mine is to plough the earth.

plant my seed, and then like some specimen
   of insect, become one with the mist.

But I know the wicked man and his path,
   know his causal machinations that seem

so gloriously brilliant in their diabolic wit
   here in the light of day. But who would

guess the planning he does deep in the night
   tossing on the fetid damp of his sepulchral sheets?

For a thirsting man caught here, stranded
   late at night between two dry hills,

my prayers answered are like sweet waters,
   and the passing of fear – fear of the drawn gun

ready to spit senselessly my simple brains
   on this cooking tarmac; fear of the old ghosts

arising from the sea with their unknowable
   anger, ready to strike me dumb, dry my seed;

the passing of this fear brings such cool
   and the sound of wings, gigantic wings

flapping such cool calming breezes to my soul;
   this is the love of heaven.

Few songs but the tried and proven
   hymnals of majestic patience can

sing the grandness of my gratitude
   in these dark times. Continue your wash

of love for my seed and their seed,
   bring stones to shatter the blundering toes

of my enemies, and may the heart of the sweating
   evil man, seeping all that pig fat,

fall so sudden with startle and dread,
   never to rise again, never to rise again.