NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 51

Sometimes the freedom work, the crossing or blurring of the boundary, happens in more subtle ways. In poems like “Requiem” and “Anodyne” we see perceived boundaries between nonhuman and human bodies blurred. In this excerpt from the beginning of “Anodyne,” for example, we witness the celebration of a crooked and gorgeous human body: “nigh++time, always divining” + I love this body made to weather the storm in the brain, raised out of the deep smell of fish & water hyacinth, out of rapture & the first regret. I love my big hands. I love it clear down to the soft quick motor of each breath, the liver’s ten kinds of desire & the kidney’s lust for sugar. This skin, this sac of dung & joy, this spleen floating like a compass needle inside nighttime, always divining West Africa’s dusty horizon. If we think about music first, we notice Komunyakaa’s use of breath and the catalogue. This is a poem of descriptions and of lists, and the lists of this excerpt alone are punctuated by six commas and four ampersands. Which is to say, his is a music of expansion here. The first phrase — “I love this body” — seems to be a complete thought or syntactical unit. It has its own line. It could stand alone as its own sentence. But then the next line builds on and qualifies the body (made to weather the storm) and, again, we think that might be the end of the phrase, but the lack of punctuation pushes us forward and we realize we’re falling into another sequence of descriptions and qualifiers. This is a music built out of patterns and ruptures, or variations, in the patterns. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE + 49 Each of these brilliant and powerful figures were people who worked to free themselves and to transcend the brutality of circumstance and vengeance. It is this freedom work, this expansion of person, imagination, and possibility that Komunyakaa is engaged with thematically, musically, visually, time and time again.