“Facing It”—A Poem by Yusef Komunyakaa in Honor of American Veterans

By Elaine Magliaro

Yusef Komunyakaa, the author of the poem Facing It, was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana on April 29, 1947. He “served in the United States Army from 1969 to 1970 as a correspondent, and as managing editor of the Southern Cross during the Vietnam war, earning him a Bronze Star.” Komunyakaa began writing poetry in 1973.

Here is a video of Komunyakaa reading his poem Facing It, which is about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial:

Here is a video in which Michael Lythgoe reads Facing It for the Favorite Poem Project. Lythgoe is a veteran who served in Vietnam with a USAF tactical team in 1965…and again in Saigon in 1971. Lythgoe has said that he was not able to face the “Memorial Wall” in Washington, D. C. for many years. He added that Komunyakaa’s poem opened up his emotions—and that he always thinks of it when he visits the wall.

Facing It, read by Michael Lythgoe in 1999:


Excerpt from Facing It
by Yusef Komunyakaa

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears.
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way–the stone lets me go.
I turn that way–I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.

Click here to read the rest of the poem.



Yusef Komunyakaa (Academy of American Poets)

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