Yusef Komunyakaa

Start Free Trial

Reflect on an issue in society and a related aspect in life as found in the poem "Blackberries" by Yusef Komunyakaa.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In terms of Yusef Komunyakaa's poem, "Blackberries," the social issue I recognize is racism, and the aspect of life related to the issue is that of hunger.

I lean toward racism because Komunyakaa, while born in America, is descended from great-grandparents from Trinidad, and grows up in Louisiana in the heartland of racism against persons of color.

He grew up in the small town of Bogalusa, Louisiana, before and during the Civil Rights-era.

Phrases such as "rich in blackness," "hid from daylight," "limboed between worlds," and "the blue car made me sweat" bring forth images of pride in being black, the attempt to live between the world of whites vs. blacks, and the fear that accompanied perhaps what represents a police car.

While "Blackberries" may speak of several concerns, what I find most compelling are the images of food—and the speaker's longing that brings hunger to mind. These sensory images that appeal so much to sight, help the reader imagine the speaker's longing for sustenance.

The speaker is physically in an old building or room, as indicated with the use of the words "History," and "old lime-covered." Perhaps ten is the time when he is accustomed to eating or when food is served—the speaker may well be in prison.

Although I could smell old lime-covered

History, at ten I’d still hold out my hands...

The berries falling into the speaker's hands are those that he imagines, perhaps from his childhood—during a time of plenty he remembers, at the height of the season...for the berries "fall" into his hands. There is so much fruit that he can eat with one hand while filling the pail he carries with the other.

...and berries fell into them. Eating from one

and filling a half gallon with the other...

We get the sense that the fruit is imaginary as the speaker refers to "mythology" and dreams. Not only does his imagination provide images of food—memories of plentiful berry harvests—but his dreams are also of food: pies and cobblers. The forgiveness may be equated with his release from jail, and that eating is almost as important as being freed from imprisonment.

I ate the mythology & dreamt

Of pies & cobbler, almost

Needful as forgiveness.


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team