Poet’s Nook: “Poems of Shape and Motion” by Linton Kwesi Johnson

Revisit The Independent's portrait of dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson

I was wondering if I could shape this passion
Just as I wanted in solid fire.
I was wondering if the strange combustion of my days
The tension of the world inside of me
And the strength of my heart were enough.
I was wondering if I could stand as tall,
While the tide of the sea rose and fell.
If the sky would recede as I went,
Or the earth would emerge as I came
To the door of the morning, locked against the sun.

I was wondering if I could make myself
Nothing but fire, pure and incorruptible.
The wound of the wind on my face
Would be healed by the work of my life
Or the growth of the pain in my sleep
Would be stopped in the strife of my days.

I am wondering if the agony of years
Could be traced to the seed of an hour.
If the roots that spread out in the swamp
Ran too deep for the issuing flower.
I was wondering if I could find myself
All that I am in all that I could be.
If all the population of stars
Would be less than the things I could utter
And the challenge of space in my soul
Be filled by the shape I become.

I walk slowly in the wind,
Watching myself in things I did not make;
In jumping shadows and in limping cripples
Dust on earth and houses tight with sickness
Deep constant pain, the dream without sleep.

I walk slowly in the wind,
Hearing myself in the loneliness of a child
In woman’s grief, which is not understood
In coughing dogs when midnight lingers long
On stones, on streets and then on echoing stars,
That burn all night and suddenly go out.

I walk slowly in the wind
Knowing myself in every moving thing
In years and days and words that mean so much
Strong hands that shake, long roads that walk
And deeds that do themselves.
And all this world and all these lives to live.

I walk slowly in the wind,
Remembering scorn and naked men in darkness
And huts of iron rivetted to earth.
Cold huts of iron stand upon this earth
Like rusting prisons
Each is well marked and each wide roof is spread
Like some dark wing
Casting a shadow or living a curse.

I walk slowly in the wind
To lifted sunset red and gold and dim
A long brown river slanting to an ocean
A fishing boat, a man who cannot drown.

I walk slowly in the wind
And birds are swift, the sky is blue like silk.
From the big sweeping ocean of water
An iron ship rusted and brown achors itself.
And the long river runs like a snake
Silent and smooth.

I walk slowly in the wind.
I hear my footsteps echoing down the tide
Echoing like a wave on the sand or a wing on the wind
Echoing echoing
A voice in the soul, a laugh in the funny silence.

I walk slowly in the wind
I walk because I cannot crawl or fly.


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