Yusef Komunyakaa's poem, "Facing It," speaks of
the disturbed memories of a veteran. In the poem, the
narrator, a black, Vietnam War veteran, is visiting the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C. The
speaker talks of how he feels, staring at the memorial
wall, and also of how his memories still stay with him.
He struggles at the memorial to keep his promise not to
cry, but, now facing the wall, he is having trouble not
to shed tears. This shows the tremendous impact that war
has on people and what many have to face from their past
As the man looks at the polished, black, granite
wall, he notices and points out certain properties and
characteristics of the wall, such as "[His] clouded
reflection eyes [him] / like a bird of prey, the profile
of night / slanted against morning." (6-8) This is,
indeed, a comparison of the reflection in the wall to
the outside itself.
He talks of being inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference. (10-13)
While he is facing memorial wall, he becomes helplessly
lost in its reflection.
The wall has 58,022 names, which is not a rounded,
but a specific number to symbolize that each and every
one of the veterans is important. He goes through the
names and comes across Andrew Johnson. He remembers this
name, and it may have been someone close to him or just
an acquaintance during the war. He recalls the "booby
trap's white flash" (18) as he finds Johnson's name.
This shows how Andrew Johnson died and that the narrator
had certainly witnessed the incident.
The image of engraved names looking as if to appear
on the reflection of people only to stay on the wall