The Memories of a Veteran

Essay by alwaysessenceUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2006

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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

while they...