The Author of “Facing It”
The way one speaks and acts coming out of war is traumatic not only to the human body but the mind as well. If we the reader didn’t know that the author of “Facing It” Yusef Komunyakaa, was a war veteran, I would guarantee that after reading his poem you would have concluded that he was.
What is striking about his work it that Yusef uses words that you wouldn’t typical put together to make you understand what he, the writer is seeing and facing- hence the poem “Facing It”.
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By reading the poem in your head or even out loud you could tell that the author’s tone of voice is very heartbroken, he feels this conflicting pain within himself, that could only be expressed through poetry. Yusef explains his feelings and what he’s experiencing out side post-war.
His work depicts a certain metaphor in which he talks about the Vietnam veteran memorial wall, as like a mirror in which he’s not in or on. As a result of that, he writes them down as poems and comes up with beautiful analogies, that from a psychological critique, raises questions about what he is trying to convey throughout the war. Psychology is a way for humans to find the deeper meaning behind a person’s word. As I break down Yusef’s poem and try to find the deeper meaning, I will not only be talking about his internal struggle between his experience with war, but also the internal battle that Yusef faces between him and himself, and how he work to overcome it.
The very first verse in Yusef poem “My black face fades, hiding inside the black granite, I said I wouldn’t dammit: no tears I am stone I am flesh”.(lines 1-3) Starts off by not only talking about his race but psychologically his memory as well. According to Floyd, Pilar analyzed version of “Facing It” Yusef face fades into the granite of the memorial.
He looks back upon his memories and sees them as black and white- as humans tend to do in dreams. He sees the white engraved names on the black granite. When relating the two together, he explains how he is hiding- he can not see himself in the black granite, not only because of his pigment but because he feels strongly and more guilty that his name isn’t up on that wall unlike the rest of his fellow soldiers.
“No tears I am stone I am flesh”(line 4) can only refer to the idea that he like the granite is stone. However because he is alive he remains this warm living flesh that is capable of crying even though he refers to himself as stone. Yusef uses metaphors and analogies as a way from hiding his true self. We wants to remain strong- stone, but alas he is struggling between to states he’d like to be in: life or death.
Not only is this a battle for Yuself, we begin to see a battle that struggles between Yusef and himself when coming to terms with reality. “My clouded reflections eyes me”( line 5 ). Clouded meaning the tears that are progressing, or this idea that Yuself himself is clouded. When someone stands far away from a reflection, there image becomes clouded, as if it were disappearing, and in this case Yusef wanted to, but the granite was standing in his way, along with himself.
As the reader I took this to mean he was accepting himself and the war, therefor backing away from it. When the statement eyes it “eyes me” meaning its looking back, can mean that his reflection is looking back at him or he is looking within himself. He realized and expected that its the granite thats not moving, its him who has to walk away but can not. Yuself is a victim of war ” like a bird of prey”( line 7 )he is victimizing himself and the names on the granite are what’s analyzing him.
Emotional, everything becomes a reminder to a victim of war. According to Floyd, Pilar he’s accepting that wherever he goes there will always be a reminder, it’s not escaping him. Yusef is getting a sense of his surroundings. “I turn this way- the stone lets me go”( line 8 ) he turns the other way and there is the memorial again. As he tries to walk away, he is realizing there is no walking away, because he’s always capable of turning in another direction and ending up back where he left off. From a psychological standpoint, I would say not only does he not want to be apart from the memorial but he is also accepting to the idea that is ok to turn around and not stare into it for a while.
Just as he is about to walk away he comes rights back and realizes how many names are upon the memorial. “I go down 58,022 names half-expecting to find my own in letters like smoke”( line 15 ). There is a sense of guilt in this sentence, you can almost feel that he wants his name there but also he doesn’t. I say this because Yusef uses the term smoke. Smoke meaning a hundred different reason, but in this case smoke can mean something clear.
According to Floyd, Pilar she states that in this cause the word smoke means easily attainable and easy enough to disappear. Here you can see that Yusef is struggling with himself, he feels this sense of responsibility and guilt. As a living individuale, Yusef like smoke can vanish and reappear when he pleases, unlike those names on the wall that will that will never. With this it gives Yusef this reassurance that he is truly alive because his name cannot be found on that list. However he still is a victim and struggles everyday with this thought of violence and lose. To people like us it’s a wall with names, to Yusef it’s an important memory.
Once again Yusef finds himself in a mental state, similar to the one in the beginning of the poem. Where he is considering the possibilities of life and death, the internal struggle between him and himself. Yusef sees a veteran come out of the wall and rush through him, as talked about in class this image that Yusef see’s is similar to what could be a ghost.
As stated in an analyzed version of “Facing It” Floyd, Pillars take on this statement she says that Yusef like the veteran with one arm has also lost something from the war, that being his piece of mind. I took this to mean that Yusef walks though life day by day struggling still because the difference between what we think is a ghost and Yusef himself, is that Yusef still lives.
” In the black mirror a woman trying to erase names, no she is brushing a boys hair”( line 29) This was a very difficult analogy to break down, however as the reader, I read it to mean that Yusef is having a difficult time distinguishing the difference between memories from the war and memories of life. He wants to believe that everything is going to be ok and that nobody is hurt, but that’s not the case. He wants to be like everyone else, but he can’t.
Why can’t other be more like him? From here on end Yusef’s every move, every statement, and every action will be an impact from his decisions and his actions from the war. He lives life trying to find the difference between fantasy and reality, the difference between life and death, and what he expresses in his last stanza is that nobody will understand and not many people care, unless they themselves are like Yusef.
As a result Yusef faces with many psychological struggles, but like many they take time to comprehend and understand. Throughout the poem you see how Yusef fluctuates his emotions about what he sees and feels while looking at the memorial. Yusef faces many things, because the war in himself and in his head isn’t over. He attempts to overcome the nightmares and grief he faces, but concludes that’ll unlike many people, he has a privilege of understand the importance of this piece of granite, that many don’t seem to appreciate.
Each stanza of Yusef’s poem is a way of expressing his internal battle. Each idea shows that Yusef is trying to overcome something in himself but looking at everything though different perspectives. At one point he’s a bird looking at himself, next his image fades into the black granite.
Yusef stands on this fine line between life and death and attempts to break down the difference between the two given his struggle. In learning that it’s he who holds him back, Yusef learns to live with the way he looks and faces life. Getting back to the real world is just as difficult as being in war. Yusef seems to understand the meaning of everything but just doesn’t understand why it has to be like that which is why he is internally struggling with himself.