Poem: “After Summer Fell Apart” by Yusef Komunyakaa

0 Posted by - April 14, 2021 - LATEST POSTS

Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana. The son of a carpenter, Komunyakaa has said that he was first alerted to the power of language through his grandparents, who were church people: “the sound of the Old Testament informed the cadences of their speech,” Komunyakaa has stated. “It was my first introduction to poetry.”

He began writing poetry in 1973 at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, where he was an editor for and a contributor to the campus arts and literature publication, riverrun. He earned his M.A. on Writing from Colorado State University in 1978, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California, Irvine, in 1980.

Komunyakaa married Australian novelist Mandy Sayer in 1985, and in the same year, became an associate professor at Indiana University in Bloomington. He also held the Ruth Lilly Professorship for two years from 1989 to 1990.

His subject matter ranges from the black general experience through rural Southern life before the Civil Rights era and his experience as a soldier during the Vietnam War.

After Summer Fell Apart

By Yusef Komunyakaa
I can’t touch you.
His face always returns;
we exchange long looks
in each bad dream
& what I see, my God.
Honey, sweetheart,
I hold you against me
but nothing works.
Two boats moored,
rocking between nowhere
& nowhere.
A bone inside me whispers
maybe tonight,
but I keep thinking
about the two men wrestling nude
in Lawrence’s Women in Love.
I can’t get past
reels of breath unwinding.
He has you. Now
he doesn’t. He has you
again. Now he doesn’t.
You’re at the edge of azaleas
shaken loose by a word.
I see your rose-colored
skirt unfurl.
He has a knife
to your throat,
night birds come back
to their branches.
A hard wind raps at the door,
the new year prowling
in a black overcoat.
It’s been six months
since we made love.
Tonight I look at you
hugging the pillow,
half smiling in your sleep.
I want to shake you & ask
who. Again I touch myself,
unashamed, until
his face comes into focus.
He’s stolen something
from me & I don’t know
if it has a name or not—
like counting your ribs
with one foolish hand
& mine with the other.


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