by Kwame Dawes


for Mama

she wraps love and slips it soft
in the corner of the tuck box
among the kenke balls wrapped in banana leaf
the cans of sardine and corned beef
the condensed milk thick sweet
the jar of pepper ground in onions
tomato and wild herb
bread still warm from the kiln
golden tender food to chew with
the fish fried so crisp it will last for days
the oranges the yoyi the mangoes

she shelters this bounty of tuck
in a silk red scarf and crowns it
with the holy word of god

then on a rattling sedan
she bears her gift
up to the convent on the hill
where the irish nuns
are crafting from the stone
a holy bright-eyed gem
a daughter to make her mother proud


Ghanaian-born Jamaican poet Kwame Dawes is the award-winning author of twenty-one books of poetry (most recently, City of Bones: A Testament, 2017) and numerous books of fiction, non-fiction, criticism, and drama. He is the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner, and a Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. This poem originally appeared in the Summer/Autumn 2013 issue of Harvard Divinity Bulletin.

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