you say I make you happy & sad

I love the opening poem from Yusef Komunyakaa (1947-) in his newest book, The Chameleon Couch.


Because I mistrust my head & hands, because I know salt

      tinctures my songs, I tried hard not to touch you
even as I pulled you into my arms. Seasons sprouted

      & went to seed as we circled the dance with silver cat bells
tied to our feet. Now, kissing you, I am the archheir of second
      Because I know twelve ways to be wrong

& two to be good, I was wounded by the final question in the cave,
      left side of the spirit level’s quiver. I didn’t want to hug you

into a cross, but I’m here to be measured down to each numbered

      A trembling runs through what pulls us to the blood knot.
We hold hands & laugh in the East Village as midnight autumn

      shakes the smoke of the Chicago B.L.U.E.S. club from our clothes,
& you say I make you happy & sad. For years I stopped my hands

      in midair, knowing fire at the root stem of yes.
I say your name, & another dies in my mouth because I know how

          to plead till a breeze erases the devil’s footprints,

because I crave something to sing the blues about. Look,
      I only want to hold you this way: a bundle of wild orchids

broken at the wet seam of memory & manna.


Some day there will be no war

Photo of Amy Lowell

“September, 1918” by Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight;
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves,
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.
Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world.