Ode to the Maggot

Yusef Komunyakaa

Brother of the blowfly
& godhead, you work magic
Over battlefields,
In slabs of bad pork

& flophouses. Yes, you
Go to the root of all things.
You are sound & mathematical.
Jesus Christ, you're merciless

With the truth. Ontological & lustrous,
You cast spells on beggars & kings
Behind the stone door of Caesar's tomb
Or split trench in a field of ragweed.

No decree or creed can outlaw you
As you take every living thing apart. Little
Master of earth, no one gets to heaven
Without going through you first.

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Arthur Elgort

Yusef Komunyakaa’s books of poetry include TabooDien Cai DauNeon Vernacular, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize, Talking Dirty to the Gods, WarhorsesThe Chameleon CouchThe Emperor of Water Clocks, and Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in 2021. 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 SaturnaliaWakonda’s Dream, Testimony, and Gilgamesh: a verse play. He teaches at New York University.

“A monumental collection . . . No matter how well you know Komunyakaa’s poetry, you’ll find this collection an illuminating retrospective, and if you’re new to him, this is the place to start.”
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"This dazzling collection makes a definitive case for the Pulitzer Prize–winning Komunyakaa as a monumental and singular American voice. A jazzy master of enjambment and arresting opening lines, Komunyakaa synthesizes natural history, myth, and wide-ranging intellectual curiosity into sensory acts of witness . . . In this roving survey of history and nature, violence often meets beauty, but Komunyakaa never forgets how ‘The body remembers / every wish one lives for or doesn’t.’”
Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

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