Urban Renewal

By Yusef Komunyakaa b. 1947 Yusef Komunyakaa
The sun slides down behind brick dust,   
today’s angle of life. Everything

melts, even when backbones   
are I-beams braced for impact.

Sequential sledgehammers fall, stone   
shaped into dry air

white soundsystem of loose metal   
under every footstep. Wrecking crews,

men unable to catch sparrows without breaking   
wings into splinters. Blues-horn

mercy. Bloodlines. Nothing   
but the white odor of absence.

The big iron ball   
swings, keeping time

to pigeons cooing in eaves   
as black feathers

float on to blueprint   
parking lots.

Yusef Komunyakaa, “Urban Renewal” 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

Subjects Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Yusef  Komunyakaa


In his poetry, Yusef Komunyakaa weaves together the elements of his own life in short lines of vernacular to create complex images of life in his native Louisiana and the jungles of Vietnam. From his humble beginnings as the son of a carpenter, Komunyakaa has traveled far to become a scholar, professor, and prize-winning poet. In 1994, he claimed the Pulitzer Prize and the $50,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his Neon . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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