11 July 2006

Yusef Komunyakaa

[from Yusef Komunyakaa's Dien Cai Dau]


Opium, horse, nothing
sends anybody through concertina
this way. What is it in the brain
that so totally propels a man?
Caught with women in our heads
three hours before daybreak,
we fire full automatic
but they keep coming,
slinging satchel charges
at our bunkers. They fall
& rise again like torchbearers,
with their naked bodies
greased so moonlight dances
off their skin. They run
with explosives strapped
around their waists,
& try to fling themselves
into our arms.


Usually at the helipad
I see them stumble-dance
across the hot asphalt
with crokersacks over their heads,
moving toward the interrogation huts,
thin-framed as box kites
of sticks & black silk
anticipating a hard wind
that’ll tug & snatch them
out into space. I think
some must be laughing
under their dust-colored hoods,
knowing rockets are aimed
at Chu-Lai—that the water’s
evaporating & soon the nail
will make contact with metal.
How can anyone anywhere love
these half-broken figures
bent under the sky’s brightness?
The weight they carry
is the soil we tread night & day.
Who can cry for them?
I’ve heard the old ones
are the hardest to break.
An arm twist, a combat boot
against the skull, a .45
jabbed into the mouth, nothing
works. When they start talking
with ancestors faint as camphor
smoke in pagodas, you know
you’ll have to kill them
to get an answer.
Sunlight throws
scythes against the afternoon.

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