Ghanaian born, Jamaican bred poet Kwame Dawes, opens up the grief in his heart that followed the diagnosis of legendary reggae musician, Bob Marley of Melanoma and his eventual death. Melanoma is a serious skin cancer that arises from pigment cell.
Referring to the legend using one of his most recognized albums “Natty Dreads”, the poet plays out the entire event, from how hard the news of Marley’s illness hit him, to how the cancer ravaged the musician thus;
The news comes like a stone
Cancer devoured his upful locks
And a sister collected the clumps
Of carefully nurtured holiness
In a plastic bag to be matted
Into a wig like a crown for the
Bald Natty Dread in his casket
He goes on to lament the uselessness of the treatment, the chemotherapy, and he turns to ‘Jah’ seeking answers. The poet brings the dying man into this poem, he lets him tell it as it is with him;
The veil is black like this night
Black like the treacherous road;
When it wet it slippery
See me sliding, tumbling down
See how this sickness make my soul
Black as jet, caution, caution
Kwame succeeds in taking us to the bed side of the dying musician, one could practically feel life leaving the musicians body; but above all, one could see his struggle, his will to hang onto life, but the deadly cancer goes on destroying blindly, leaving him helpless, and his brothers cannot even help him as “all they can say, is walk, walk, walk, walk.”
He finally accepts defeat knowing he would die, but a new tone of regret sets in altogether. One could feel his longing, his lonesomeness, and his fear. He would miss friends and family and life thus;
But who will walk with me
Who will carry the lamp on this path
Whose breathing will reassure me
Of a company waiting on the other side?
My brethren will forsake me
I walk into so many dark places
While I wait for the coming of light…
Bob Marley died on the 11th of May, 1981 in Miami, Florida, US. Kwame Dawes reminds us in this beautiful grief stricken poem, of the menace of cancer and how it took down a star.
Kwame Dawes is a professor of English as the University of Nebraska Lincoln and editor-in-chief at Prairie Schooner Magazine.