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HOW I SEE THINGS / Yusef Komunyakaa I hear you were sprawled on the cover of Newsweek with freedom marchers, those years when blood tinted the photographs, when fire leaped into the trees. Negatives of nightriders develop in the brain. The Strawberry Festival Queen waves her silk handkerchief, executing a fancy high kick flashback through the heart. Pickups with plastic Jesuses on dashboards head for hoedowns. Men run twelve miles into wet cypress swinging bellropes. Ignis fatuus can't be blamed for the charred Johnson grass. Have we earned the right to forget, forgive ropes for holding to moonstruck branches? Every last stolen whisper the hoot owl echoes turns leaves scarlet. Hush shakes the monkeypod til pink petal-tongues fall. You're home in New York. I'm back here in Bogalusa with one foot in pine woods. The mockingbird's blue note sounds to me like please, please. A beaten song threaded through the skull 120 ¦ The Missouri Review by crosshairs. Black hands still turn bloodred working the strawberry fields. Yusef Komunyakaa The Missouri Review · 121 TOO PRETTY FOR SERIOUS BUSINESS / Yusef Komunyakaa Moonlight on antebellum skin— how he has her laid out in his mind, wanting her to say snapdragon & belladonna. Not to use words like blood, shit, tiger cages, that she doesn't know the score written on the forehead. Wearing his Billy the Kid grin, he feels like a pair of boots with iron spurs. He says, "Honey, I'm the curator of parchment skull caps & broken promises." He wants her on her back studying a butterfly's weight on a tree & singing "Old Black Joe." He blows on a camellia to break it open, gives her a bloodstone, saying, "Here. See how hard it is, now aren't you lucky?" She says, "Hell no!" He leans on his rosewood desk, mumbling something about snow & amber on Goat Mountain. 122 · The Missouri Review ...


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pp. 120-122
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