Facing It By: Yusef Komunyakaa

Facing It

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 Poem Facing It by Yusef Komunyakaa is a very emotional poem.  This poem makes you think about just how devastating war can be to a soldier who fought in it.  This poem is about a man who is at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and finds a friends name who had died in the war.  When the man finds the name of his close friend he starts having flashbacks of what happened during the war.  Yusef states “I touch the name Andrew Johnson;  I see the booby trap’s white flash.”  This short but very powerful excerpt from the poem shows  how devastating it is to lose a close friend in a war.  During his flashback he also was still very aware of his surroundings. Yusef says “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.” This shows you how during his flashback he is still aware of what is going on around him.  The way he says the vet lost his arm in the stone is saying that his arm is part of the list of casualties that were left with all of the names on the stone.  It also shows you how a traumatic event like this will forever cause this soldier to have flashbacks of bad memories of war.


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