By George Elliott Clarke George Elliott Clarke

for Kwame Dawes

    Your scuttled pays floats—fiery—in the ether;
Blazing, it vomits smudge-smoke. Your mind chars
Black because you yaw—moth-like—too near flames.
You douse your dream-scorched brain with slave-sweat rum—
The only gold you can own, corroding
Your liver. Your anthem plays to gunfire.
    When you think about it (when you can breathe)—
After all the lies that frame nostalgia,
All the dead faces that occupy photographs,
All the slain lovers pitched into ditches,
Your eyes itch and ache with water, then dry—
Curling like dead leaves, starving for gold fire.

"Exile" by George Elliot Clarke, from Blue, copyright © 2001 by George Elliot Clarke. Reprinted with the permission of Polestar. Polestar is an imprint of Raincoast Books, www.raincoast.com.

Source: Blue (Rain Coast Books, 2001)

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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