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By Yusef Komunyakaa

The city at 3 a.m. is an ungodly mask

the approaching day hides behind

& from, the coyote nosing forth,

the muscles of something ahead,


& a fiery blaze of eighteen-wheelers

zoom out of the curved night trees,

along the rim of absolute chance.

A question hangs in the oily air.


She knows he will follow her scent

left in the poisoned grass & buzz

of chainsaws, if he can unweave

a circle of traps around the subdivision.


For a breathy moment, she stops

on the world’s edge, & then quick as that

masters the stars & again slips the noose

& darts straight between sedans & SUVs.


Don’t try to hide from her kind of blues

or the dead nomads who walked trails

now paved by wanderlust, an epoch

somewhere between tamed & wild.


If it were Monday instead of Sunday

the outcome may be different,

but she’s now in Central Park

searching for a Seneca village


among painted stones & shrubs,

where she’s never been, & lucky

she hasn’t forgotten how to jig

& kill her way home.


Source: Poetry (January 2016)

  • Living
  • Nature
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Yusef Komunyakaa
Yusef Komunyakaa’s poems are rooted in his experiences as an African American growing up in rural Louisiana and his service in the Vietnam War. Influenced by the jazz music he loves as well as by people’s everyday speech, his poetry has won a number of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1994.

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