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Please

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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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