Please

By Yusef Komunyakaa b. 1947 Yusef Komunyakaa
Forgive me, soldier.   
Forgive my right hand   
for pointing you   
to the flawless
tree line now
outlined in my brain.   
There was so much   
bloodsky at daybreak
in Pleiku, but I won’t say
those infernal guns   
blinded me on that hill.

Mistakes piled up men like clouds   
pushed to the dark side.
Sometimes I try to retrace
them, running
fingers down the map
telling less than a woman’s body—
we followed the grid coordinates
in some battalion commander’s mind.   
If I could make my mouth
unsay those orders,
I’d holler: Don’t
move a muscle. Stay put,
keep your fucking head
down, soldier.

Ambush. Gutsmoke.
Last night while making love
I cried out, Hit the dirt!
I’ve tried to swallow my tongue.
You were a greenhorn, so fearless,   
even foolish, & when I said go,
Henry, you went dancing on a red string   
of bullets from that tree line
as it moved from a low cloud.

Yusef Komunyakaa, “Please” 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 War & Conflict, Friends & Enemies, Relationships, Social Commentaries

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 . . .

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SUBJECT War & Conflict, Friends & Enemies, Relationships, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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