Poem in Your Pocket and Poetry of the Week: Kwame Dawes
Friday April 29th is this year's Poem in Your Pocket Day! The name may speak for itself, but let poetry spark your creativity. No pockets? Craft one! Tie a poem to your shoelaces! Or if, and even if not, all else fails, carry a poem on your tongue to share with others today. It's a day celebrated annually as a way to hold and share poetry during National Poetry Month, encouraging people of all ages not only to carry poems in their pockets throughout the day but also, whether in writing or in speech, to share those poems with others. "Pocket" may convey smallness, but the day is about poetry's expansiveness...about both the words we keep close to ourselves and the words we share with others.
What began as a project in New York City in 2002 expanded nationally six years later and is now celebrated in Canada as well. Each year, to prepare for Poem in Your Pocket Day, the Academy of American Poets and the League of Canadian Poets put together a joint collection of PIYP poems as suggestions, though anyone participating is welcome and encouraged to choose their own. The 2022 selections can be found here, and nestled in amongst these gems is a poem entitled "Purple," by Ghanian poet Kwame Dawes. My favorite part of reading the Academy's annual selections is that one poem by one poet can inspire following trails through that poet's oeuvre... until one is lost in the wonder of words. And so below, please also find Dawes' poem, "Ode to the Clothesline."
Walking, I drew my hand over the lumpy bloom of a spray of purple; I stripped away my fingers, stained purple; put it to my nose,
the minty honey, a perfume so aggressively pleasant—I gave it to you to smell, my daughter, and you pulled away as if
I was giving you a palm full of wasps, deceptions: “Smell the way the air changes because of purple and green.”
This is the promise I make to you: I will never give you a fist full of wasps, just the surprise of purple and the scent of rain.
- Kwame Dawes
From Nebraska: Poems
Ode to the Clothesline
After Alfred Stieglitz
Not so much the missing of things but the nostalgia of colors, their music, the ordinary revelation of a family’s life caught in the flop and dance, a jig, if you will, of their layers, outer and inner skins, the secret things so close to the body, the taste, the salt and sweet of blood, and shit, and piss, and then, rinsed and scrubbed, leaving beneath the astringent scent of soap a musky marker of self for strays to smell or imagine as they walk past the parade of the living on taut lines, propped by poles with nails for a hook, above the startling green of grass and hedge, the barefaced concrete steps, the sky, inscrutable as a wall; this is what one carries as a kind of sweetness — the labor of brown hands, elbow-deep in suds, the rituals of cleansing, the humility of a darning or a frayed crotch, the dignity of cleanliness, the democracy of truth, the way we lived our lives in the open.
- Kwame Dawes
From Poetry, April 2018