Memory of the Murdered Professors at the Jagiellonian

By Yusef Komunyakaa b. 1947 Yusef Komunyakaa

After Hasior

They fired a bullet into the head
of each question, trying to kill Kant’s
unending argument with Hegel.
They burned laws, moral codes,
& the Golden Means. Anyone
serving tea & cookies to Death,
looking or acting as if he knew love,
stood before the firing squad.
All questions had to go. Pronoun
or noun. If it crawled on busted kneecaps,
whimpering & begging for mercy,
it was still half of a question.

                    *     *     *

The little skyscraper of glass boxes
sunlight strikes the same time of day
at a certain angle outside Zakopane
looks like condos where nimble ghosts
still stand up to the darkest answers.
No, I can’t hear one voice pleading.
But I do hear gusts coming down
from the hills. No, you’re wrong again.
The crow perched on the totem is real.
Look at how the light lifts off its wings,
but I wish I could understand what it is
he’s trying to say. I think I heard a name.

Source: Poetry (September 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2010
 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 Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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