• Gardenia Leaf on a White Wall

    Kwame Dawes

    Summer 2021

    Here is the layering of stability—
    the archeologists, I am told, imagine
    the earth as layered sheets, the texture
    and density, a kind of divination
    of an empire’s fate: what will be left
    standing, what will eventually fall.
    And when I imagine what lies below
    this land of mastodon bones, old enough
    to seem like inventions, solid enough
    to worry the faith of begats upon begats,
    their exotic physics (we are pondering
    the engineering), I think of this wall
    mapping our future. The last layer
    before sky is us, and then the deeper
    lines until we find ice and icing.
    It is true that a well-constructed
    torte is a kindly metaphor for this
    if one cuts a cross section neatly,

    Kwame Dawes is the author of twenty-two books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. His collection Nebraska was published in 2020. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and George W. Holmes University Professor at the University of Nebraska. His awards include an Emmy, the Forward Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Nora Magid Award, and the Wyndham Campbell Prize for Poetry. In 2021, Dawes was named an editor of American Life in Poetry.

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