A Poem by Yusef Komunyakaa, a professor at NYU
You and I are Disappearing
The cry I bring down from the hills
belongs to a girl still burning
inside my head. At daybreakshe burns like a piece of paper. She burns like foxfire
in a thigh-shaped valley.
A skirt of flames
dances around her
We stand with our hands hanging at our sides,
while she burns
like a sack of dry ice. She burns like oil on water.
She burns like a cattail torch
dipped in gasoline.
She glows like the fat tip
of a banker’s cigar,
silent as quicksilver. A tiger under a rainbow
She burns like a shot glass of vodka.
She burns like a field of poppies
at the edge of a rain forest.
She rises like dragonsmoke
to my nostrils.
She burns like a burning bush
driven by a godawful wind.
Not only did this poem scream “THIS IS DARFUR!” at me, it pulled at my heartstrings. The many images of this burning girl seep into my soul as they did into Yusef’s. Whether it be as a “burning bush,” as “rising dragonsmoke,” or as “a cattail torch dipped in gasoline,” the girl’s image is a part of the poet’s psyche. She is like an eternal flame of memory, and he can’t forget neither her nor the experience.
The most hurtful line I found seemed to be “We stand with our hands hanging at our sides,
while she burns/ like a sack of dry ice” because the crowd is watching instead of taking action. Too many of us sit idly while a government (Sudan) systematically destroys an entire race of people. Many watch, few act. Upon reading this poem, I instantly thought of holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and my favorite quotation:
The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference.
We must act. Visit www.savedarfur.org for ideas on ways to help. BE VOCAL.