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Adrian Matejka (he/him/his) reads the poem, "You and I Are Disappearing" by Yusef Komunyakaa.

Adrian Matejka:

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My name is Adrian Matejka, and I'm going to be reading "You and I Are Disappearing" by Yusef Komunyakaa.

The poem is from his sixth book Dien Cai Dau and was inspired by his experiences in Vietnam as a soldier and as a war correspondent. It was also one of the very first poems I ever heard a poet read.

As we all know, there's a great deal of difference between recitation and reading a poem on your own, especially when the person reciting it is Yusef Komunyakaa. As soon as I heard him read, I knew whatever else might come, I needed to try to write poetry. 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 god awful wind.