A Poem on Transformation: Ode to the Drum
Gazelle, I killed you for your skin's exquisite touch, for how easy it is to be nailed to a board weathered raw as white butcher paper. Last night I heard my daughter praying for the meat here at my feet. You know it wasn't anger that made me stop my heart till the hammer fell. Weeks ago, I broke you as a woman once shattered me into a song beneath her weight, before you slouched into that grassy hush. But now I'm tightening lashes, shaping hide as if around a ribcage, stretched like five bowstrings. Ghosts cannot slip back inside the body's drum. You've been seasoned by wind, dusk & sunlight. Pressure can make everything whole again, brass nails tacked into the ebony wood your face has been carved five times. I have to drive trouble from the valley. Trouble in the hills. Trouble on the river too. There's no kola nut, palm wine, fish, salt, or calabash. Kadoom. Kadoom. Kadoom. Ka- doooom. Kadoom. Now I have beaten a song back into you, rise & walk away like a panther.
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Hear Yusef Read His Poem
“Ode to the Drum” can be found in Thieves of Paradise.