Theresa Carcaldi '19, English major, Psychology Minor, Marist Honors Program

"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.

Read/hear the full poem

Last semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to study Komunyakaa’s poem in two different English classes, and each time I read it, a new layer of interpretation was revealed, which makes this poem so complex and emotional. Its confessional style reflects the hidden pain of Vietnam War veterans that helps the world understand the debilitating physical and emotional scars these veterans have had to hold in ever since this taboo war. What strikes me most about this poem is the way in which the speaker so desperately tries to erase the names from the Memorial, but ultimately must come to terms with his experiences. My grandfather is also a Vietnam War veteran, so this poem helped me to understand his unwillingness to discuss his experiences with the war and ultimately made me more compassionate toward him, as well as other veterans.