Ars Poetica

Anodyne by Yusef Komunyakaa

Anodyne

I love how it swells
into a temple where it is
held prisoner, where the god
of blame resides. I love
slopes & peaks, the secret
paths that make me selfish.
I love my crooked feet
shaped by vanity & work
shoes made to outlast
belief. The hardness
coupling milk it can't
fashion. I love the lips,
salt & honeycomb on the tongue.
The hair holding off rain
& snow. The white moons
on my fingernails. I love
how everything begs
blood into song & prayer
inside an egg. A ghost
hums through my bones
like Pan's midnight flute
shaping internal laws
beside a troubled river.
I love this body
made to weather the storm
in the brain, raised
out of the deep smell
of fish & water hyacinth,
out of rapture & the first
regret. I love my big hands.
I love it clear down to the soft
quick motor of each breath,
the liver's ten kinds of desire
& the kidney's lust for sugar.
This skin, this sac of dung
& joy, this spleen floating
like a compass needle inside
nighttime, always divining
West Africa's dusty horizon.
I love the birthmark
posed like a fighting cock
on my right shoulder blade.
I love this body, this
solo & ragtime jubilee
behind the left nipple,
because I know I was born
to wear out at least
one hundred angels.





Poem reprinted from Poetry Society of America's Awards Ceremony program, in which Yusef Komunyakaa was awarded the 2007 Shelley Memorial Award. All rights reserved.

In celebration of Ars Poetica (2010), Rachel Eliza Griffiths' exhibition of photographs of Cave Canem faculty and fellows, the Poetry Society of America is presenting a selection of her portraits, each one accompanied by a poem from a Cave Canem poet she has captured on film.

As the poet Nikky Finney remarks "Because of her gifted, mindful pressing private eye on us, we discover what we could never completely see before, all around us, could never completely find before, right there in full shadow and slated sun, not even with our own two eyes: All of every bit of who we are."

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