Yusef Komunyakaa
A Voice on an Answering Machine

I can’t erase her voice. If I opened the door to the cage & tossed the magpie into the air, a part of me would fly away, leaving only the memory of a plucked string  trembling in the night. The voice unwinds breath, soldered wires, chance, loss, & digitalized impulse. She’s telling me how light pushed darkness till her father stood at the bedroom door dressed in a white tunic. Sometimes we all wish we could put words back into our mouths. 


I have a plant of hers that has died many times, only to be revived with less water & more light, always reminding me of the voice caught inside the little black machine. She lives between the Vale of Kashmir & nirvana, beneath a bipolar sky. The voice speaks of an atlas & a mask, a map of Punjab, an ugly scar from college days on her abdomen, the unsaid credo, but I still can’t make the voice say, Look, I’m sorry. I’ve been dead for a long time.

Found In Volume 39, No. 06
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Yusef Komunyakaa
About the Author

Yusef Komunyakaa’s numerous books of poems include Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems1975-1999 (Wesleyan University Press, 2001); Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000); Thieves of Paradise (1998), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems 1977-1989 (1994), for which he received a Pulitzer Prize.