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Reginald Dwayne Betts

Years: 2006, 2007


Dwayne writes poems. This is what he tells people, this is what he stands by. In the footnotes of his life there will be a line that reads: saved by an Etheridge Knight poem. In August 2009 his memoir, A Question of Freedom, was published by Avery/ Penguin - it is a complicated story of words and jail cells and what it means to be a sixteen year old sentenced to nine years in prison. 


Dwayne writes poems. He is a graduate of Prince George's Community College and the University of Maryland and currently holds the Holden Fellowship at Warren Wilson College's MFA Program for Writers. His first collection of poetry, Shahid Reads His Own Palm, was awarded the Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books and will be published in May 2010.


This is the truth - he met his wife in a book store and read her poems the day they met. His family includes his wife and their beautiful son. He will tell you poetry has given him many things, most significant of all is a family.


Shahid Reads His Own Palm




I come from the cracked hands of men who used

the smoldering ends of blunts to blow shotguns,


men who arranged their lives around the mystery

            of the moon breaking a street corner in half.


I come from “Swann Road” written in a child’s

            slanted block letters across a playground fence,


the orange globe with black stripes in Bishop’s left

            hand, untethered and rolling to the sideline,


a crowd openmouthed, waiting to see the end

            of the sweetest crossover in a Virginia state pen.


I come from Friday night’s humid and musty air,

            Junk Yard Band cranking in a stolen Bonneville,


a tilted bottle of Wild Irish Rose against my lips

and King Hedley’s secret written in the lines of my palm.


I come from beneath a cloud of white smoke, a lit pipe

            and the way glass heats rocks into a piece of heaven,


from the weight of nothing in my palm,

a bullet in an unfired snub-nosed revolver.


And every day the small muscles in my finger threaten to pull

            a trigger, slight and curved like my woman’s eyelashes.