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Steel


A truckload of fresh watermelons,
lemon-green goodness on a slouching
truck, cutting through so many states:
Arkansas, West Virginia, Maryland,
into the smoke-heavy Pennsylvania cities;
from red dirt like a land soaked
in blood to the dark loam of this new
land—from chaos to the orderly
silence of the wolf country—Pittsburgh's
dark uneven skyline, where
we have found shelter
while the crippled leader
waits to promise healing
for a nation starving
on itself. Two men, dusty
from the Parchman Farm,
their eyes still hungry
with dreams, laugh bitter
laughs, carrying the iron
of purpose in them. Hear
the engine clunking, hear
the steel of a new century
creaking. There is blood
in the sky—at dawn, the city
takes them in like a woman.
Inside them all memory
becomes the fiction of survival—
here the dead have hands
that can caress and heal,
hands that can push a living
body into a grave, hold it there,
and the living get to sing it.
This is a nation of young men,
dark with the legacies
of brokenness, men who know
that life is short, that the world
brings blood, that peace
is a night of quiet repose
while the dogs howl in the woods,
men who know the comfort
of steel, cold as mist at dawn,
pure burnished steel.


Kwame Dawes

Duppy Conqueror: New and Selected Poems
Copper Canyon Press


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