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My Father's Love Letters -- Yusef Komunyakaa

Guest poem sent in by Sashidhar Dandamudi
(Poem #1290) My Father's Love Letters
 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.
-- Yusef Komunyakaa

[1] The recent poem submitted by Jasmina (Poem #1288: Amanda Townsend),
made me remember this poem which I had read a few weeks ago in Komunyaaka's
Pulitzer Prize winning collection "Neon Vernacular". It deals with the same
pieces of conflict and agreement between men and women.

[2] The whole poem seems to be structured in a very beautiful way around
brutality (beat her, claw hammer, pressure of my ballpoint pen, five pound
wedge, concrete floor) and tenderness (desert flowers, Polka Dots and
Moonbeams, sunset, roses & hyacinth) to reflect how the narrator is
similarly caught between the same kind of feeling towards his father. Can't
do anything better than that!

[3] I was also suprised that Komunyakaa was missing from the Minstrels
pantheon! I think he is a great poet, who has written some powerful poetry,
the notable being of his experiences as a black journalist serving in
Vietnam War. So I belive we might consider adding this missing link.


[Bio] [broken link]
[Other Poems]

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