Yusef Komunyakaa was completely unknown to me until I read that he’d been nominated for the National Book Award for The Chameleon Couch, his poetry collection. I still know nothing about him, except this poem is great:
No, Sweetheart, I said courtly love.
I was thinking of John Donne’s
“Yet this enjoys before it woo,”
but my big hands were dreaming
Pinetop’s boogie-woogie piano
taking the ubiquitous night apart.
Not Courtney. I know “inflated tear”
means worlds approaching pain
& colliding, or a heavenly body
calling to darkness, & that shame
has never been my truest garment,
because I was born afraid of needles.
But I’ve been shoved up against
frayed ropes too, & I had to learn
to bob & weave, to duck & hook,
till I could jab my way out of
a foregone conclusion, till blues
reddened a room. All I know it,
sometimes a man wants only a hug
when something two-steps him
toward a little makeshift stage.
Somehow, between hellhounds
& a guitar solo made of gutstring
& wood, I outlived a stormy night
with snow on my eyelids.