Posts Tagged ‘komunyakaa’


The Deck by Yusef Komunyakaa

April 25, 2008

I have almost nailed my left thumb to the 2 x 4 brace that holds the deck together. This Saturday morning in June, I have sawed 2 x 6s, T-squared and leveled everything with three bubbles sealed in green glass, and now the sweat on my tongue tastes like what I am. I know I’m alone, using leverage to swing the long boards into place, but at times it seems as if there are two of us working side by side like old lovers guessing each other’s moves.

This hammer is the only thing I own of yours, and it makes me feel I have carpentered for years. Even the crooked nails are going in straight. The handsaw glides through grease. The toenailed stubs hold. The deck has risen up around me, and now it’s strong enough to support my weight, to not sway with this old, silly, wrong-footed dance I’m about to throw my whole body into.

Plumbed from sky to ground, this morning’s work can take nearly anything! With so much uproar and punishment, footwork and euphoria, I’m almost happy this Saturday.

I walk back inside and here you are. Plain and simple as the sunlight on the tools outside. Daddy, if you’d come back a week ago, or day before yesterday, I would have been ready to sit down and have a long talk with you. There were things I wanted to say. So many questions I wanted to ask, but now they’ve been answered with as much salt and truth as we can expect from the living.


My Father’s Love Letters – Yusef Komunyakaa

March 13, 2008

On Fridays he’d open a can of Jax
After coming home from the mill,
& ask me to write a letter to my mother
Who sent postcards of desert flowers
Taller than men. He would beg,
Promising to never beat her
Again. Somehow I was happy
She had gone, & sometimes wanted
To slip in a reminder, how Mary Lou
Williams’ “Polka Dots & Moonbeams”
Never made the swelling go down.
His carpenter’s apron always bulged
With old nails, a claw hammer
Looped at his side & extension cords
Coiled around his feet.
Words rolled from under the pressure
Of my ballpoint: Love,
Baby, Honey, Please.
We sat in the quiet brutality
Of voltage meters & pipe threaders,
Lost between sentences . . .
The gleam of a five-pound wedge
On the concrete floor
Pulled a sunset
Through the doorway of his toolshed.
I wondered if she laughed
& held them over a gas burner.
My father could only sign
His name, but he’d look at blueprints
& say how many bricks
Formed each wall. This man,
Who stole roses & hyacinth
For his yard, would stand there
With eyes closed & fists balled,
Laboring over a simple word, almost
Redeemed by what he tried to say.