You are here

Unlikely Claims

Yusef Komunyakaa

This is my house. My sweat is in the mortar

& hewn wood. This garden of garlic blooms

is mine, too, said last night’s pale ghost.

I know every crack where cold & light

try to sneak in, & where the past tongues

& grooves the future. I own every rusty nail.

This fence wasn’t here when hobnailed boots

marched us into the night. I remember all

the cat-eye marbles would roll to this corner

of the kitchen. This tree limb my uncle cut

to make a witching rod. Here’s the mark

an anniversary candle left on the counter,

said the ghost, slowly fingering

the deep burn like an old wound.

Now, dirt-bike trails crisscross

the apple grove my father planted.

The goat tied beside the back gate

belongs to my progeny of beautiful

goats. You sold the mineral rights

under our feet, but the bird we hear

singing overhead in a Yiddish accent

owns the morning. These roses are mine

because I’ve walked through fire.

Go & tell your drinking buddies

& psychoanalyst, your neighbor

has risen from the ashes. I wonder

if I should tell you about the love letters

hidden behind the doorjamb. This house

still stands among my lavender flowers.

Tell your inheritors to think of me

when they smile up at the sky.


From Oxford Poetry Vol 13 No 1 (Spring 2009)