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You and I Are Disappearing

Poet Yusef Komunyakaa went to the Vietnam War as a journalist but came home a poet. This episode explores how things experienced during war can still burn in memory and on the page decades later. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, film and theatre director Julie Taymor, composer Elliot Goldenthal, a chorus of Vietnam War veterans, and Komunyakaa himself discuss the awful mix of beauty and horror in war—and the challenge of making art from it.

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Read the Poem

You and I Are Disappearing

by Yusef Komunyakaa

“You and I Are Disappearing”
                       –Björn Håkansson

The cry I bring down from the hills
belongs to a girl still burning
inside my head. At daybreak
       she burns like a piece of paper.
She burns like foxfire
in a thigh-shaped valley.
A skirt of flames
dances around her
at dusk.
          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
  at nightfall.
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.

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“You and I Are Disappearing”
                       –Björn Håkansson

The cry I bring down from the hills
belongs to a girl still burning
inside my head. At daybreak
       she burns like a piece of paper.
She burns like foxfire
in a thigh-shaped valley.
A skirt of flames
dances around her
at dusk.
          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
  at nightfall.
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.

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