“…Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but she walks away
the names stay on the wall…”
Mr. Komunyakaa, the poet of the stanza above, served in the United States Army in 1969 and 1970 as a correspondent during the Vietnam War. His 1988 poem Facing It was inspired by his experience visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. the previous year (1987). In the poem, he reflects on the grueling deaths of thousands and the
In the quote above, he is cogitating on the fact that the woman viewing the memorial is able to walk away and return to her daily life, but the names on the wall, the people these names represent, weren’t able to do the same years prior. The woman walks away and takes with her the memory of the wall, maybe remembering a name or two, but Mr. Komunyakaa remembers the horror that those memorialized dealt with.
Mr. Yusef Komunyakaa’s cogitation is valid seeing that millions of people have visited the memorial since its completion, but all return to their homes shortly after but the Americans who died at war-the over 58,000 names engraved on the wall-have remained. Life moves on and these war veterans are not brought back to life-they only live in memories. When hearing about the war and the outrageous amount of casualties, one can’t always grasp the horror and intensity of it all. Even if they visit the memorial itself, without a personal connection, it’s hard to draw up the appropriate emotions: grief and sadness. However, Mr. Komunyakaa, having been involved first hand in the war, has vivid images forever etched in his mind; the memorial simply brings back the associated emotions.