Study Guide

Ode to a Drum

by Yusef Komunyakaa

Ode to a Drum eText - eText

Text of the Poem

Gazelle, I killed you
for your skin’s exquisite
touch, for how easy it is
to be nailed to a board
weathered raw as white 5
butcher paper. Last night
I heard my daughter praying
for the meat here at my feet.
You know it wasn’t anger
that made me stop my heart 10
till the hammer fell. Weeks
ago, I broke you as a woman
once shattered me into a song
beneath her weight, before
you slouched into that 15
grassy hush. But now
I’m tightening lashes,
shaping hide as if around
a ribcage, stretched
like five bowstrings. 20
Ghosts cannot slip back
inside the body’s drum.
You’ve been seasoned
by wind, dust & sunlight.
Pressure can make everything 25
whole again, brass nails
tacked into the ebony wood
your face has been carved
five times. I have to drive
trouble from the valley. 30
Trouble in the hills.
Trouble on the river
too. There’s no kola nut,
palm wine, fish, salt,
or calabash. Kadoom. 35
Kadoom. Kadoom. Ka-
Doom. Kadoom. Now
I have beaten a song back into you,
rise & walk away like a panther.