Sunday, May 4, 2008

You and I are Disappearing

by Yusef Komunyakaa

The cry I bring down from the hills
belongs to a girl still burning
inside my head. At daybreak
she burns like a piece of paper.
She burns like foxfire
in a thigh-shaped valley.
A skirt of flames
dances around her
at dusk.
We stand with our hands
hanging at our sides,
while she burns
like a sack of dry ice.
She burns like oil on water.
She burns like a cattail torch
dipped in gasoline.
She glows like the fat tip
of a banker’s cigar,
silent as quicksilver.
A tiger under a rainbow
at nightfall.
She burns like a shot glass of vodka.
She burns like a field of poppies
at the edge of a rain forest.
She rises like a dragonsmoke
to my nostrils.
She burns like a burning bush
driven by a godawful wind.

How is it possible for a poem to contain so many similes without sounding repetitive? There are ten versions of “she burns like…” and every single one of them sounds necessary. The desperation in the speaker’s voice as he recalls a lost love is sad and tragic, and the constant fire images lead me to believe that he is in pain remembering her.

I’ve not read too many of Komunyakaa’s poems, but I just might have to pick up one of his chapbooks or something because I just love this poem. I know he is local, from Trenton originally, and I’m pretty sure that he teaches at NYU; other than that, I know very little about him.

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