AfroPoets Famous Writers

The Body Remembers

I stood on one foot for three minutes & didn't tilt
the scales. Do you remember how quickly

we scrambled up an oak leaning out over the creek,
how easy to trust the water to break

our glorious leaps? The body remembers
every wish one lives for or doesn't, or even horror.

Our dance was a rally in sunny leaves, then quick
as anything, Johnny Dickson was up opening

his arms wide in the tallest oak, waving
to the sky, & in the flick of an eye

he was a buffalo fish gigged, pleading
for help, voiceless. Bigger & stronger,

he knew every turn in the creek past his back door,
but now he was cooing like a brown dove

in a trap of twigs. A water-honed spear
of kindling jutted up, as if it were the point

of our folly & humbug on a Sunday afternoon, right?
Five of us carried him home through the thicket,

our feet cutting a new path, running in sleep
years later. We were young as condom-balloons

flowering crabapple trees in double bloom
& had a world of baleful hope & breath.

Does Johnny run fingers over the thick welt
on his belly, days we were still invincible?

Sometimes I spend half a day feeling for bones
in my body, humming a half-forgotten

ballad on a park bench a long ways from home.
The body remembers the berry bushes

heavy with sweetness shivering in a lonely woods,
but I doubt it knows words live longer

than clay & spit of flesh, as rock-bottom love.
Is it easier to remember pleasure

or does hurt ease truest hunger?
That summer, rocking back & forth, uprooting

what's to come, the shadow of the tree
weighed as much as a man.

Written by Yusef Komunyakaa


Yusef Komunyakaa Poets Page