Vox Populi

Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry

Yusef Komunyakaa: 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.


Reprinted from the Internet Poetry Archive sponsored by the University of North Carolina Press. For educational use only.

One comment on “Yusef Komunyakaa: My Father’s Love Letters

  1. Claudia Nolan
    December 22, 2016

    This gives me chills unrelated to the cold cement floor and makes me think how impossibly big our hearts are sometimes.

    Liked by 2 people

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This entry was posted on December 22, 2016 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , .
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