Analyzing Theme in "Facing It" by Yusef Komunyakka

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The Unrelenting Grief of the Vietnam War

The trials and tribulations of war are things that are not easily forgotten by those involved, and are also things not easily understood by those not involved. It is impossible to truly understand the emotional toll that something as devastating as a war can have on a person. In the poem “Facing It” by Yusef Komunyakaa, it centers on an African American man who served in one of the most trying wars of all time, the Vietnam War, and is visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. In this poem, an understanding is gained of the unrelenting grief and emotional toll that resulted from this overwhelming experience through the presentation of the emotions evoked from the man by the memorial, his feelings and experiences during the war, and also the apparent connection between him and another survivor.

From the very beginning of the poem it is clear that visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall is evoking very strong emotions from the man. He states that his “[B]lack face fades, / hiding inside the black granite” (Komunyakaa, lines 1-2). This is a good indication that this man feels that due to his racial identity and also the ambiguous reasons for the war in general, his purpose in the war was insignificant and likely he feels cheated by it. Immediately it is also apparent that this war maintains its emotional hold on him, as he states “I said I wouldn’t, / dammit: No tears” (lines 3-4). He then says “I’m stone. I’m flesh.” (Line 5) which tells us that although he wanted to be strong and hard like the granite wall he was looking at and fight the emotions, he could not contain the emotions he felt. He is simply flesh, and cannot overcome the memories of the war. These few opening lines convey so much about this man’s emotional state and viewpoint of his time spent in the Vietnam War, and prepare us to understand exactly what kind of experiences he had during this war.

It’s very obvious throughout the rest of the...