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Callaloo 25.4 (2002) 1137

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Langston Hughes

Yusef Komunyakaa

Those days when Jesse B.
Semple was quick to say,
"You can take the boy
outta the country . . . "
Joplin, Lawrence, Lincoln,
all left watermarks: an eye
of habit from turning up hems
& talking at the bottom of blue.
Agate polished itself
as this word weaver
groped for a foothold
in the boneyard,
watching hypnotic bird
voices condense in spoons.
A greenhorn among zoot-suited
swingers who danced with skirts
lost in a glare of horns
as long chains flowed out of empty pockets.


From Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems (Wesleyan, 2001). Reprinted by permission of the author.

Yusef Komunyakaa is the author of twelve books of poems, including Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000); Thieves of Paradise (1998), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems 1977-1989 (1994), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Dien Cai Dau (1988), which won The Dark Room Poetry Prize; I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head (1986), winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Award; and Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems, 1975-1999. A decorated Vietnam veteran, Komunyakaa recently received the 2001 Ruth Lilly Prize. He serves as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets and is currently a professor in the Council of Humanities and Creative Writing Program at Princeton University.



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