Yusef Komunyakaa “Back Then”

I’ve eaten handfuls of fire
back to the bright sea
of my first breath
riding the hipbone of memory
& saw a wheel of birds
a bridge into the morning
but that was when gold
didn’t burn out a man’s eyes
before auction blocks
groaned in courtyards
& nearly got the best of me
that was when the spine
of every ebony tree wasn’t
a pale woman’s easy chair
black earth-mother of us all
crack in the bones & somber
eyes embedded like beetles
in stoic heartwood
seldom have I needed
to shake a hornet’s nest
from the breastplate
fire over the ground
pain tears me to pieces
at the pottery wheel
of each dawn
an antelope leaps
in the heartbeat
of the talking drum

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