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
Yusef Komunyakaa is the author of many works of poetry, nonfiction, and drama, and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. He is a native of Louisiana and a veteran of the Vietnam War.
"Facing It" reflects the speaker's experience on visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. The poem suggests that each of the 58,022 names on the memorial's wall is a touchstone for grief as well as a triumph of memory.
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