Instructions for Building Straw Huts

By Yusef Komunyakaa b. 1947 Yusef Komunyakaa
First you must have
unbelievable faith in water,
in women dancing like hands playing harps
for straw to grow stalks of fire.
You must understand the year
that begins with your hands tied
behind your back,
worship of dark totems
weighed down with night birds that shift their weight
& leave holes in the sky. You must know
what’s behind the shadow of a treadmill—
its window the moon’s reflection
& silent season reaching
into red sunlight hills.
You must know the hard science
of building walls that sway with summer storms.
Locking arms to a frame of air, frame of oak
rooted to ancient ground
where the door’s constructed last,
just wide enough for two lovers
to enter on hands & knees.
You must dance
the weaverbird’s song
for mending water & light
with straw, earth, mind, bright loom of grain
untortured by bushels of thorns.

Yusef Komunyakaa, “Instructions for Building Straw Huts” 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)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Yusef Komunyakaa b. 1947

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Yusef  Komunyakaa

Biography

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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.