Talking Dirty To The Gods
Yusef Komunyakaa

… One half tortures
The other for the romantic songs

Crooned at sunset. Unholy
Need & desire divide the season,
As you eat sugar from a nymph’s palm,
Before she mounts & rides you into a man.

From The Centaur, p 6.

No decree or creed can outlaw you
As you take every living thing apart. Little
Master of earth, no one gets to heaven
Without going through you first.

From Ode to the Maggot, p 10

A shadow limps off among the trees.
Already sentenced into wilderness,
As if born wounded, he must stand
Between men & what shines.

From Scapegoat, p 16

…I don’t know how I feel

Or need. Entangled in so many
What-ifs. Neither north nor south.
I wish I knew how to stop women
From crying when I open my mouth.

From Castrato, p 55

He’s on a hammock in Bangkok,
Easting succulent prawns and squid
Spiced with red peppers & lemongrass.
Hesiod’s “Fairest of the deathless

Gods” can feel the fatigue syndrome
Loosen its grip in this archipelago
of pleasure. He reads a pirated
Edition of The Plague. At twilight,

He’ll go to the corner shop
& buy a jade brooch for Muriel
Back in Boise. He’ll return
To Club Limbo. A new counterfeit

Gift dripped in fire. Eros throws
a kiss to the teenage prostitute,
& touches the wad of greenbacks
Nestled against his groin.

Eros, p. 60

… Sweetheart,
Can I, may I? Should I stop
Undoing those seven bone-colored
Buttons too pretty to look at?

From May, p. 62

If only he could touch her,
Her name like an old wish
In the stopped weather of salt
On a snail. He longs to be

Words, juicy as passion fruit
On her tongue. He do anything.
Dance three days & nights
To make the most terrible gods

Rise out of ashes of the yew,
To step from the naked
Fray, to be as tender
As meat imagined off

The bluegill’s pearlish
Bones. He longs to be
An Orange, to feel fingernails
Rum a seam through him.

Lust, p. 63

Andrei, language can work a Judas
Kiss, can leach like the czar’s bloody

Seed. Sometimes it’s pea gravel
In a chicken’s gizzard, & work days
Down to excrement, a dark luminosity
That betrays the devil in us.

From Semantics, p. 68

Father would cut off his hands
For a voice out of the clouds,
The devil in his hall
Of trick mirrors where

Echo lives with the master
Ventriloquist. I bear a knife scar,
But still love him as a son
Should. I am his terror.

Sometimes I sleep with one eye
Open. He made promises
Anyone with good sense knows
He can’t keep. I’ve heard him

Slap himself across the face
Nightlong. There’s an old word
For his sickness, but I can’t lift
A myth off the page with my tongue.

Isaac, p. 75

Joy, use me like a whore
Turn me inside out like Donne
Desired God to do with him.
Show me some muscle,

Sunlight on black stone.
Coldcock me about the head
Till I moan like a bell, low
As the one Goya could hear

Through the walls of
Quinta del Sordo
Tie me up to the stocks those Puritans
Handled so well in Boston streets.

Don’t let me down. I bet
You use all your know-how
In one throttle. Please, good God,
Put everything into your swing.

Ecstatic, p. 88

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