Tuesday, December 06, 2005

poem 15 Komunyakaa

Facing It
by Yusef Komunyakaa

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my 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 blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman's trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

The guilt of for survival is overwhelming for many veterans. In this poem the speaker is visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and seeing himself in the wall. At first he speaks of his face beign a part of the stone relfecting, butt hen he looks for him own name, half expecting it to be there. The reader get s sense of despair from him at the other people who are also visiting the memorial. Like names shimmering on a woman's blouse, and even after she walks away, and the wall becomes a memory, those names will still be there, and the men will still be dead. Even a woman who he initially thinks is trying to erase the names, to take back what has happened to them, is merely brushing a boy's hair, an almost ignorant of the important of the structure before her.


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