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Before the Riot by Kwame Dawes

From Audio: 503: Before the Riot

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station description Host Ada Limón delivers a different way to see the world – through poetry. In just ... read more
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Duration: 03:41
The Ghanian poet’s work reflects his spiritual, intellectual, and emotional engagement with reggae music. He references the rhythms and textures of his country.
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The Ghanian poet’s work reflects his spiritual, intellectual, and emotional engagement with reggae music. He references the rhythms and textures of his country. Dawes is also well known for his reports on HIV AIDS in Haiti after the earthquake.
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today's poem is before the riot by Kwame Dawes. But someone will have to pay for all the innocent blood bob Marley. We and um on the dreary trudge the frontier begins 100 years later, almost to a woman says in the way of appeasement, perhaps it is true that for us to live so well, some of them had to die. The question suggested by the nervous lift in inflection at the end of phrase, and who is this? Us who have lived so well, Who are living so well and how well so that there is a peculiar justification, a terrible logic. And it is a haunting confession buried deep inside the book. Though in truth, there is no question there, this is its own duplicity. This questioning this effortless way of speaking the tragic, there has been blood, so much blood and the rituals of bludgeoning of rust, tanned white men, cliche, had westerners, hunters, the stereotypes, the killers of vermin, rabbits under wheel of trucks, the people she knows intimately like. A daughter knows, her father knows her brother's knows the scent of scotch on her grandfather's breath. The comfort of their manliness, stoic as stone. They will kill as easily as threaten even the softer bodies of their women. It is a logical equation, a management of ethics and who are the dead, the slaughtered and the erased tribes and tribes whose faces, I do not know though I know that the logic of this pragmatism, this expiation of guilt, but the embrace of guilt as a kind of penance is familiar and the faces of those bloodshot eyes skins chalky with deprivation, the weary look of slaves. Those faces are as familiar as the panting bodies of the football team strewn on the wide grass, undressed in the heat, sweating bodies broken after pleasure. The familiar look of black bodies coffered by desire and violence, familiar as this. and that's saying the Darwinian logic. Perhaps it is true that for us to live so well, some of them had to die, offered in the soft voice of a midwestern woman who never rushes her words, who carries in her throat the secret to receiving mercy, a kind of forgiveness and expiation of guilt, who we count among those in whose mouths ice couldn't melt mouths of tender duplicity. Perhaps, perhaps, for us to live as we do, and by this, I mean, we who contemplate anger and bombs and chance today. Perhaps it's true that someone will have to pay, as we say.
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