By Yusef Komunyakaa b. 1947 Yusef Komunyakaa
Beauty, I’ve seen you
pressed hard against the windowpane.   
But the ugliness was unsolved
in the heart & mouth.
I’ve seen the quick-draw artist
crouch among the chrysanthemums.   
Do I need to say more?

Everything isn’t ha-ha
in this valley. The striptease   
on stage at the Blue Movie   
is your sweet little Sara Lee.   
An argument of eyes
cut through the metaphor,   
& I hear someone crying   
among crystal trees & confetti.

The sack of bones in the magnolia,   
What’s more true than that?   
Before you can see
her long pretty legs,
look into her unlit eyes.   
A song of B-flat breath   
staggers on death row. Real
men, voices that limp
behind the one-way glass wall.   
I’ve seen the legless beggar   
chopped down to his four wheels.

Yusef Komunyakaa, “Poetics” 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 Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

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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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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