A retired fisherman, Monty Cupidon, encounters a naked, bloodied and traumatised woman standing at the cross-roads. He offers comfort and takes her in. Suffering from amnesia, she cannot tell him anything about herself.
The only clues are the signs that she has once worn a wedding ring, has a butterfly tattoo and red nail polish on her toes. In the absence of memory, he names her Esther. So begins a remarkable sequence of poems that explores
many dimensions of liminality. Back of Mount Peace occupies a space between lyric and narrative, between reflection and story. It explores the space between body and mind, making Esther’s halting discovery of her self through her body, which like a tree bears its indelible history and, unlike the mind, ‘doesn’t forget its grievances’, work both as moving narrative device and a deeply sensed and sensual reminder of the physicality of existence.
Above all, this is a sequence that explores a relationship which begins in a primal Edenic space of innocent discovery in which, as Monty hopes, ‘the hallelujah’s of new love will begin’, but which, like all relationships must enter history, the decay of time and the corruptions of knowledge.
In the use of rhyme and other patterns of sound, Back of Mount Peace shows an exceptional delicacy of formal control that constantly reinforces the poem’s insights and moving conclusions.
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Kwame Dawes is the author of over thirty books, and is widely recognized as one the Caribbean’s leading writers. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and a Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska.