Black Virgin Mountain.
                                               Yeah, gore, & all
the damn vagaries
                                   of war locked inside a song.
Yeah, sometimes one thing
                                                  leads to another
rainbow, a choker of hippie beads,
                                                                & I can’t
stop hearing Dad’s voice
                                             almost going there
on “Nature Boy,” no struggle
                                                      trying to hide
behind his eyes. He almost made it,
                                                                 but didn’t
know how to leave dirt on the roots.
                                                                  Maybe this
is why I must keep hurt alive,
                                                       limping inside
some bamboo cage.

Lately, I feel how worlds shift.
                                                          I don’t know
how they slip the yoke,
                                               but three nights ago
these sappers broke through
                                                     concertina wire,
their naked bodies greased,
                                                  as they ran & slung
wild satchel charges.
                                   I was tied up in a hut
of clay & thatch, & a nameless
                                                       army nurse
sat in a corner, sizing me up,
in blackface, & she wore
                                            next to nothing.
I heard a tap on the other side
                                                        of the wall,
sounding a message in code,
                                                    & the nurse Lt.
stood up, & said, that’s John.

What’s going on here,
                                               huh? I mean, look,
 the Navy pilot never played
                                                   blind czar of Id
ransacking the rosebushes
                                                  on a false trail,
& we need him at our backs.
                                                         What hellhole
do heel spurs rise from? 
                                            Pardon my brogue.
All summer the devil
                                    was sharping his blade
on cold black whetstone,
                                             & now this hard rain
falling inside, turning life
                                              into gray moss,
but I still love my jackfruit.  
Sometimes I hear Roberta
                                                saying, Lawd,
come here, Boy,
                            & let us talk glory days.
We sit there, ruminating,
                                              wondering why
police would shoot
                                  unarmed Black folks,
gazing at our faces
                                   in the water, as the cork
bobs, & nylon line tightens,
                                                  my bone hook
in the throat of a gold-belly
                                                  perch big as two
hands, & I feel the river
                                           growing angry,
ready to leap the bank,
                                           ready to rampage
one hundred years in one
                                                   night, red
dusk to dawn’s new season.

Copyright © 2022 by Yusef Komunyakaa. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 1, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.