In honor of the holiday, take the time today to thank those who have served our country and to read a few poems/stories by some of your favorite veteran writers. Here is a poem by Vietnam Veteran Yusef Komunyakaa, whose work still breaks my heart every time I read it.
by Yusef Komunyakaa
My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears.
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way—the stone lets me go.
I turn that way—I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He’s lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair
SUGGESTED READING: In Pharoah’s Army by Tobias Wolff (Non-fiction), The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (Fiction), Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa (Poetry)