Poetry Friday: Marking Memorial Day

Poetry Friday is hosted by Linda at TeacherDance 

In honor of Memorial Day…which we will mark with an assembly: 


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.   
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11 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Marking Memorial Day

  1. This is beautiful and terrible all at the same time, Tara. I have been there & seen the ethereal way the light changes, & here it is acknowledged so clearly. Thank you for the tribute to those who have given their lives for us.

  2. What a haunting poem. My mom just sent me my grandfather's World War I diary, which he kept while in the trenches in France. The horrors they all witnessed…there are no words. Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem.

  3. Komunyakaa is one of my favorite poets. Thank you for sharing his poem here today. His collection Neon Vernacular has some great poems in it. A journalist during the Viet Nam War he has an incredible poem about the young flaming girl running down the street. Plus some of the poems about his childhood are very memorable. I do believe that someday soon he will be our Poet Laureate.

  4. This is a beautiful poem. And it really does capture the feeling of that monument — how it draws you in, and the power of all those names.

  5. Such a powerful tribute, Tara – thank you for sharing this work. Amazing how it captures the toggling back and forth between war's horrors and the mundane activities of memorial onlookers – just beautiful. With thanks to our veterans this weekend.

  6. I have not seen the memorial in Washington, but we had the traveling wall here at the Infantry Museum a year or so ago. It's truly amazing to stand back and watch people experience it. This poem captures the emotions so well. Thanks for sharing.

  7. We were just in DC last week and went down to the monuments and memorials on the National Mall. It definitely gave me pause, just as the poem you posted did.

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