Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"The Shortest Night," by Yusef Komunyakaa

from "A Forest Tale," by Gabriel Isak

The Shortest Night
Yusef Komunyakaa

I went into the forest searching
for fire inside pleading wood,
but I can’t say for how long
I was moored between worlds.
I heard a magpie’s rumination,
but I don’t know if its wings
lifted the moon or let it drift
slow as a little straw boat
set ablaze on a winding river.
I learned the yellow-eyed wolf
is a dog & a man. A small boy
with a star pinned to his sleeve
was hiding among thorn bushes,
or it was how the restless dark
wounded the pale linden tree
outside a Warsaw apartment.
Night crawls under each stone
quick as a cry held in the throat.
All I remember is my left hand
was holding your right breast
when I forced my eyes shut.
Then I could hear something
in the room, magnanimous
but small, half outside & half
inside, no more than a song—
an insomniac’s one prophecy
pressed against the curtains,
forcing the ferns to bloom.

[Image above by Gabriel Isak]

When I read Yusef Komunyakaa's poem, I'm reminded of how mysterious and beautiful poems are. The weary, half-asleep speaker throws lovely and scary images our way--not being able to fall asleep indeed traps us "between worlds." This ending is one of those perfect moments...the insomniac's vision "forc[es] the ferns to bloom." This is a poem of inside and outside, and of a crossing between those boundaries. I hope to carry this poem's music with me today.



  1. To date, I think I have only one book by him on my shelf---Warhorses. His poetry is always overflowing with riveting & emotional language that I truly adore. Read after read you are promised to discover more about the contemporary world. Thanks ! You have given me something worth revisiting today.

    1. So glad you enjoyed this one! I know that book, Warhorses, just a little...his poems are always SO GOOD.

  2. Lovely, lovely poem! I especially like those last three lines.

  3. Wow..blew my mind...thank you for introducing him to me.

    1. My pleasure! He is a very powerful writer. Hope you are doing well! xo


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