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Light Home

by Kwame Dawes

Build me a house of light,
stretches of emptiness glaring
into an open sky calling
the colors in; but mostly
the white light that consumes
shadows, that turns this body
of riverbed brown into something
transparent like an ochre-
colored piece of cotton flapping
in the air; build me a house
of new light, the daily whisper
of dialects crawling across
the cedar and tamarind
woods; build me a house
where the rain beads the glass
panes over us, the fragile
membrane separating
us from the chaos
of the other side; furnish
our cabin with the white
and sepia brown of things—
the dull pewter of ancient
lead; the gleam of decanters,
hundreds of them, lining
the walls; build me
the house for my musty
eyes; the house where
faces, illuminated, reveal
themselves to be familiar
as a plain book of poems
opened out—call it splayed—
on the table, my desk,
the scene of such terrible crimes.

Kwame Dawes is the author of twenty-two books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. His latest collection, Nebraska, was published in 2020. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and teaches at the University of Nebraska as George W. Holmes University Professor of English, and at the Pacific MFA program. He is director of the African Poetry Book Fund and artistic director of the Calabash International Literary Festival. Dawes is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His awards include an Emmy, the Forward Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the prestigious Windham Campbell Prize for Poetry. In 2021, Dawes was named editor of American Life in Poetry