Kommunyakaa captures the alienation of the individual within society as an effect of the conflict in Vietnam. His images are artistically weaved throughout the poem and reveal the transparent nature of identity. These images transport us to a specific time and place – ‘The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial’. Phrases such as ‘clouded reflection’, ‘letters like smoke’, ‘names shimmer on a woman’s blouse’, ‘pale eyes’, ‘I’m a window’ and ‘erase the name’ suggest that identity is unstable and changable.
I love the way that Kommunyakaa transports the reader through images to a place in the mind where it is possible to understand that all life comes to an end. Physical bodies once animated with the power of life end as ‘names’...‘on the wall’. I am inspired by Kommunyakaa’s imagery and want to capture a sense of the past and future meeting at the present.
Hand prints on glass merge in light.
I press my own palm against the
cold clear glass wall.
It stands out from the others as a
fresh imprint of now.
The prints stay as I turn away from the
transparent barrier of the past.
I’m not at home
This place is home now.
My pale face turns from light
Five minutes away
Eyes and mind remembering, lids closing.
The long road beneath my feet stretches far behind.
Made of iron,
Soft as flesh.
Glass-like eyes like grapes, the pupils rock-hard seeds.
I sit on Nature’s carpet -
Summer in Blenheim, 2005.