I am five, Wading out into deep Sunny grass, Unmindful of snakes & yellowjackets, out To the yellow flowers Quivering in sluggish heat. Don't mess with me 'Cause I have my Lone Ranger Six-shooter. I can hurt You with questions Like silver bullets. The tall flowers in my dreams are Big as the First State Bank, & they eat all the people Except the ones I love. They have women's names, With mouths like where Babies come from. I a five. I'll dance for you If you close your eyes. No Peeping through your fingers. I don't supposed to be This close to the tracks. One afternoon I saw What a train did to a cow. Sometimes I stand so close I can see the eyes Of men hiding in boxcars. Sometimes they wave [End Page 731] & holler for me to get back. I laugh When trains make the dogs Howl. Their ears hurt. I also know bees Can't live without flowers. I wonder why Daddy Calls Mama honey. All the bees in the world Live in little white houses Except the ones in these flowers. All sticky & sweet inside. I wonder what death tastes like. Sometimes I toss the butterflies Back into the air. I wish I knew why The music in my head Makes me scared. But I know things I don't supposed to know. I could start walking & never stop. These yellow flowers Go on forever. Almost to Detroit. Almost to the sea. My mama says I'm a mistake. That I made her a bad girl. My playhouse is underneath Our house, & I hear people Telling each other secrets.
Yusef Komunyakaa, the subject of this issue of Callaloo, teaches at Princeton University. His most recent book of poems is Taboo: The Wishbone Trilogy, Part I. The numerous prizes, awards and honors he has received for his poetry include a chancellorship with the American Academy of Poets, the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (Wesleyan University), the William Faulkner Prize (Universite Rennes, France), the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
From Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems © 2001 by Yusef Komunyakaa and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.