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"Facing It"

by Yusef Komunyaaka


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 Komunyaaka About the Poet:

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.

About this Poem:

"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.

"Facing It," from Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems © 2001 by Yusef Komunyakaa, used by permission of the author and Wesleyan University Press.
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