My black face fades,hiding inside the black granite.I said I wouldn'tdammit: No tears.I'm stone. I'm flesh.My clouded reflection eyes melike a bird of prey, the profile of nightslanted against morning. I turnthis way—the stone lets me go.I turn that way—I'm insidethe Vietnam Veterans Memorialagain, depending on the lightto make a difference.I go down the 58,022 names,half-expecting to findmy own in letters like smoke.I touch the name Andrew Johnson;I see the booby trap's white flash.Names shimmer on a woman's blousebut when she walks awaythe names stay on the wall.Brushstrokes flash, a red bird'swings cutting across my stare.The sky. A plane in the sky.A white vet's image floatscloser to me, then his pale eyeslook through mine. I'm a window.He's lost his right arminside the stone. In the black mirrora woman’s trying to erase names:No, she's brushing a boy's hair.
“Facing It” from Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems.
Copyright © 2001 by Yusef Komunyakaa.
Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.
All rights reserved.
Yusef Komunyakaa’s books of poetry include Taboo, Dien Cai Dau, Neon Vernacular, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize, Talking Dirty to the Gods,Warhorses, The Chameleon Couch, The Emperor of Water Clocks, and Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth forthcoming from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in 2020. His honors include the William Faulkner Prize (Université Rennes, France), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award.His plays, performance art and libretti have been performed internationally and include Saturnalia, Wakonda’s Dream, Testimony, and Gilgamesh: a verse play. He teaches at New York University.
"Komunyakaa's poems sway with jazz-inflected rhythms. Short lines and percussive internal rhymes combine with sinuously stepped enjambment to give the poems a strongly musical movement."
—Ian Tromp, Times Literary Supplement
"The poems of Yusef Komunyakaa, all bearing his unique stamp of heartbreaking integrity, tower over the landscape of American poetry."
"Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Komunyakaa's second book in less than a year attests to the protean nature of his poetic imagination and skills, his fluent creative energy, and his passion for living the examined life . . . Komunyakaa is emerging as one of the major American poets of our time."
"Pleasure Dome is substantial, a comprehensive look at a significant poet's impressive career. Regular readers of Komunyakaa will find much of interest here—the book begins with a healthy selection of new poems, followed by a book-length group of the poet's early, uncollected work. a book impressive in its scope and volume, the life's work, thus far, of one of America's finer poets."
—Virginia Quarterly Review