First I read him.
I was relieved to find a style I related to. Drawn to ideas as much as—probably more than—technique in my poetic affections left me more than a little befuddled, skeptical, and lonely in many a writing workshop.
Then I heard him read.
And I was like yup. Never graduated to groupie status but not for want of admiration.
Komunyakaa is like the J. Crew to my Free People tendencies. And he rocks.
Yusef Komunyakaa (1947 – )
I’ve been here before, dreaming myself
backwards, among grappling hooks of light.
True to the seasons, I’ve lived every word
spoken. Did I walk into someone’s nightmare?
Hunger quivers on a fleshly string
at the crossroad. So deep is the lore,
there’s only tomorrow today where darkness
splinters & wounds the bird of paradise.
On paths that plunge into primordial
green, Echo’s laughter finds us together.
In the sweatshops of desire men think
if they don’t die the moon won’t rise.
All the dead-end streets run into one
moment of bliss & sleight of hand.
Beside the Euphrates, past the Tigris,
up the Mississippi. Bloodline & clockwork.
The X drawn where we stand. Trains
follow rivers that curve around us.
The distant night opens like a pearl
fan, a skirt, a heart, a drop of salt.
When we embrace, we are not an island
beyond fables & the blue exhaust of commerce.
When the sounds of River Styx punish
trees, my effigy speaks to the night owl.
Our voices break open the pink magnolia
where struggle is home to the beast in us.
All the senses tuned for the Hawkesbury,
labyrinths turning into lowland fog.
Hand in hand, feeling good, we walk
phantoms from the floating machine.
When a drowning man calls out,
his voice follows him downstream.