Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Kwame Dawes

from ‘IMPOSSIBLE FLYING’

uit ‘ONMOGELIJKE VLUCHT’

I
 
Op Kingstons vlakke, schrale aarde
is alles even hard als glas.
De zon beukt in op de stad – geen adem,
geen wind, enkel de machtige, astmatische middag.
 
We bewegen ons met de trage reserve
van mensen die hun krachten sparen
voor een wredere tijd. 1980:
dit land heeft gebloed – zoveel verraad –
en na de lukrake vuurdoop van de hoop
bleven we sidderend achter, bleek,
leeg, de gefnuikte mogelijkheden
maakten ons mank. Wij zijn een land
aan de rand van de manische euforie
van een nieuw decennium: Reagans lege
grijns rimpelt over het oppervlak
van het bekken. We durven te dromen
dat, in het tollen en de tongen van Kapo*,
ook wij dit keer wellicht zullen vliegen,
onszelf uit de poel zullen trekken
van dat droommakersdecennium –
de jaren ’70 – toen we dingen nog leerden
voor we ze verdachten: onze bloedbekwaamheid,
ons vermogen om door een verwoeste
stad te lopen, elke morgen de vaste route
naar het werk. We zijn nu zo gewend aan het puin,
misschien meer dan dat, misschien om
zak en as te dragen als tekens van onze
hoop, de ijdelheid van het overleven.
 
In dat decennium toen een sluiswachter nog
door de straten paradeerde met een zilveren
magisch spoor in zijn kielzog, hoe we vochten
om arm te zijn, lijders te zijn, te zeggen
Kijkend naar jou de betere; hoe
we ons lastdragerschap cultiveerden,
blankenrebellie, hongerbuik,
voddendracht, socialistische droom
van Caribensnit; hoe de reggae
met haar kern van geloof, glorie
en geluk haar openbaring uitsprak
via de luidsprekers van opgevoerde
BMW’s. Verdwenen nu, alles verdwenen.
 
Maar die dode huid wierpen we af;
en de massa’s plompe Lada’s
verroesten, o Havana.
We werden te cynisch voor die soberheid
of wellicht leden we niet genoeg.
Dus op zulke lege, schokkende dagen dromen we
van de vlucht. Hoe we hopen: Dans!
Dans, verdomme! Dans, verdomme! Wees gelukkig!
Onze apocalyps weergalmt in de speakers
en we dansen. Deze wetten, deze nieuwe wetten,
deze palmbladeren, deze beierende klokken,
zo wanhopig op zoek naar bevrijding,
dat slappe groen van de toekomst, en wij allemaal
staren naar de onverstoorbare lucht
en hunkeren innig naar de vlucht.

from ‘IMPOSSIBLE FLYING’

I
 
On Kingston’s flat worn earth,
everything is hard as glass.
The sun smashes into the city – no breath,
no wind, just the engulfing, asthmatic noonday.
 
We move with the slow preservation
of people saving their strength
for a harsher time. 1980:
this land has bled – so many betrayals –
and the indiscriminate blooding of hope
has left us quivering, pale,
void, the collapsed possibilities
causing us to limp. We are a country
on the edge of the manic euphoria
of a new decade: Reagan’s nodding
grin ripples across the basin’s
surface. We dare to dream
that in the spin and tongues of Kapo
perhaps we too will fly this time,
will lift ourselves from the slough
of that dream-maker’s decade –
the ’70s when we learned things only
before suspected: our capacity for blood,
our ability to walk through a shattered
city, picking our routine way to work
each morning. We are so used now to the ruins,
perhaps more than that, perhaps to wearing
our sackcloth and ash as signs of our
hope, the vanity of survival.
 
In that decade when a locksman
could prance the streets with a silver
magic trail in his wake, how we fought
to be poor, to be sufferers, to say
Looking at you the better one; how
we cultivated our burden-bearing,
white-squall, hungry belly,
burlap-wearing, Cariba-suited
socialist dream; how reggae
with its staple of faith, fame
and fortune spoke its revelation
from the speakers of souped-up
BMWs. Gone now, all gone.
 
We have thrown off that dead skin now;
and the fleets of squat Ladas
are rusting, O Havana.
We’ve grown too cynical for such austerity
or perhaps we did not suffer enough.
So on such blank and startled days, we dream
of flight. How we hope: Dance!
Dance, damn it! Dance, damn it! Be happy!
Our apocalypse echoes on the sound system
and we dance. These laws, these new laws,
these palm leaves, these clamouring bells,
so desperate for deliverance,
this insipid green in the future, and we all
stare at the unflinching sky
and will our hearts to fly.
Close

from ‘IMPOSSIBLE FLYING’

I
 
On Kingston’s flat worn earth,
everything is hard as glass.
The sun smashes into the city – no breath,
no wind, just the engulfing, asthmatic noonday.
 
We move with the slow preservation
of people saving their strength
for a harsher time. 1980:
this land has bled – so many betrayals –
and the indiscriminate blooding of hope
has left us quivering, pale,
void, the collapsed possibilities
causing us to limp. We are a country
on the edge of the manic euphoria
of a new decade: Reagan’s nodding
grin ripples across the basin’s
surface. We dare to dream
that in the spin and tongues of Kapo
perhaps we too will fly this time,
will lift ourselves from the slough
of that dream-maker’s decade –
the ’70s when we learned things only
before suspected: our capacity for blood,
our ability to walk through a shattered
city, picking our routine way to work
each morning. We are so used now to the ruins,
perhaps more than that, perhaps to wearing
our sackcloth and ash as signs of our
hope, the vanity of survival.
 
In that decade when a locksman
could prance the streets with a silver
magic trail in his wake, how we fought
to be poor, to be sufferers, to say
Looking at you the better one; how
we cultivated our burden-bearing,
white-squall, hungry belly,
burlap-wearing, Cariba-suited
socialist dream; how reggae
with its staple of faith, fame
and fortune spoke its revelation
from the speakers of souped-up
BMWs. Gone now, all gone.
 
We have thrown off that dead skin now;
and the fleets of squat Ladas
are rusting, O Havana.
We’ve grown too cynical for such austerity
or perhaps we did not suffer enough.
So on such blank and startled days, we dream
of flight. How we hope: Dance!
Dance, damn it! Dance, damn it! Be happy!
Our apocalypse echoes on the sound system
and we dance. These laws, these new laws,
these palm leaves, these clamouring bells,
so desperate for deliverance,
this insipid green in the future, and we all
stare at the unflinching sky
and will our hearts to fly.

from ‘IMPOSSIBLE FLYING’

Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère