By Yusef Komunyakaa b. 1947 Yusef Komunyakaa
In the day’s mirror
you see a tall black man.   
Fingers of gold cattail
tremble, then you witness
the rope dangling from
a limb of white oak.
It’s come to this.
You yell his direction,
the wind taking   
your voice away.
You holler his mama’s name   
& he glances up at the red sky.   
You can almost   
touch what he’s thinking,   
reaching for his hand
across the river.
The noose pendulous
over his head,   
you can feel him   
grow inside you,   
straining to hoist himself,   
climbing a ladder   
of air, your feet   
in his shoes.

Yusef Komunyakaa, “Reflections” 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 Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Race & Ethnicity

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 Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Race & Ethnicity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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