Tornado Child

By Kwame Dawes Kwame Dawes

For Rosalie Richardson

I am a tornado child.
         I come like a swirl of black and darken up your day;
         I whip it all into my womb, lift you and your things,
         carry you to where you've never been, and maybe,
         if I feel good, I might bring you back, all warm and scared,
         heart humming wild like a bird after early sudden flight.

I am a tornado child.
         I tremble at the elements. When thunder rolls my womb
         trembles, remembering the tweak of contractions
         that tightened to a wail when my mother pushed me out
         into the black of a tornado night.

I am a tornado child,
         you can tell us from far, by the crazy of our hair;
         couldn't tame it if we tried. Even now I tie a bandanna
         to silence the din of anarchy in these coir-thick plaits.

I am a tornado child
         born in the whirl of clouds; the center crumbled,
         then I came. My lovers know the blast of my chaotic giving;
         they tremble at the whip of my supple thighs;
         you cross me at your peril, I swallow light
         when the warm of anger lashes me into a spin,
         the pine trees bend to me swept in my gyrations.

I am a tornado child.
         When the spirit takes my head, I hurtle into the vacuum
         of white sheets billowing and paint a swirl of color,
         streaked with my many songs.

“Tornado Child” by Kwame Dawes, from Midland (Ohio University Press). Copyright © 2001 by Kwame Dawes. Used with permission.

Source: Midland (Ohio University Press, 2001)

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Poet Kwame Dawes


Subjects Nature, Weather

 Kwame  Dawes


Born in Ghana in 1962, Kwame Dawes spent most of his childhood in Jamaica. As a poet, he is profoundly influenced by the rhythms and textures of the country, citing in a recent interview his “spiritual, intellectual, and emotional engagement with reggae music.” His book Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius (2007) remains the most authoritative study of the lyrics of Bob Marley.
The author of over a dozen books, his most recent . . .

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Poems by Kwame Dawes

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SUBJECT Nature, Weather


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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