Facing It

By Yusef Komunyakaa b. 1947 Yusef Komunyakaa
My black face fades,   
hiding inside the black granite.   
I said I wouldn't  
dammit: No tears.   
I'm stone. I'm flesh.   
My clouded reflection eyes me   
like a bird of prey, the profile of night   
slanted against morning. I turn   
this way—the stone lets me go.   
I turn that way—I'm inside   
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light   
to make a difference.   
I go down the 58,022 names,   
half-expecting to find   
my own in letters like smoke.   
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;   
I see the booby trap's white flash.   
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse   
but when she walks away   
the names stay on the wall.   
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's   
wings cutting across my stare.   
The sky. A plane in the sky.   
A white vet's image floats   
closer to me, then his pale eyes   
look through mine. I'm a window.   
He's lost his right arm   
inside the stone. In the black mirror   
a woman’s trying to erase names:   
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.   

Yusef Komunyakaa, “Facing It” from Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 2001 by Yusef Komunyakaa. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2001)

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Poet Yusef Komunyakaa b. 1947

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Poetic Terms Free Verse