Tuesday Poem: ‘My Father’s Love Letters’ by Yusef Komunyakaa

My Father’s Love Letters

On Fridays he’d open a can of Jax
After coming home from the mill,
& ask me to write a letter to my mother
Who sent postcards of desert flowers
Taller than men. He would beg,
Promising to never beat her
Again. Somehow I was happy
She had gone, & sometimes wanted
To slip in a reminder, how Mary Lou
Williams’ “Polka Dots & Moonbeams”
Never made the swelling go down.
His carpenter’s apron always bulged
With old nails, a claw hammer
Looped at his side & extension cords
Coiled around his feet.
Words rolled from under the pressure
Of my ballpoint: Love,
Baby, Honey, Please.
We sat in the quiet brutality
Of voltage meters & pipe threaders,
Lost between sentences . . .
The gleam of a five-pound wedge
On the concrete floor
Pulled a sunset
Through the doorway of his toolshed.
I wondered if she laughed
& held them over a gas burner.
My father could only sign
His name, but he’d look at blueprints
& say how many bricks
Formed each wall. This man,
Who stole roses & hyacinth
For his yard, would stand there
With eyes closed & fists balled,
Laboring over a simple word, almost
Redeemed by what he tried to say.

‘My Father’s Love Letters’ is one of the poems that my tutorial group (stage one creative writing) are studying. It is such a tender and brutal poem; it never gets old for me (also, such skill with line breaks!). The poem was sourced from the Internet Poetry Archive where you can also find out more about Yusef Komunyakaa.

Read more poetry at the Tuesday Poem hub.

3 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: ‘My Father’s Love Letters’ by Yusef Komunyakaa

  1. Wowser.

    I hate those poems that make me think my poems are weak. I mean, I love those poems that make me think my poems are weak.

    Thanks Sarah.

  2. Great poem, such power in a simple telling. Will come back to this one, for sure. Thanks for posting — I can see why it never gets old for you. And ha! Bill’s comment made me laugh. Humbling, this.

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