Research Supported Analyses of Poems Essay

Research Supported Analyses of Poems Essay

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“Ode to the Chameleon” by Yusef Komunyakaa utilizes metaphors and allusion to convey and enhance the meaning of his poem. A common subject among his poems is what it was like to be an african-american man fighting alongside white men in the Vietnam War. A very powerful metaphor used in lines 3 - 5 is, “You are a glimpse/of a rainbow, your eyes an iota/of amber” (Komunyakaa 3-5). Komunyakaa is comparing a chameleon to a faint rainbow or a small amount of amber, both of which are fairly special. Prior to reading the poem, someone may have never thought of a chameleon as being similar to a rainbow or a piece of amber. But, the poem brings chameleons into a new light; they are hard to spot, and when spotted, are unforgettable. The entire poem is an extended metaphor, comparing a chameleon to a soldier in combat. While in war, it is crucial to stay concealed in order to survive. Lines three through five demonstrate this similarity because, like spotting a chameleon, spotting an enemy soldier is rare as well as critical to success. The end of the poem tells of the chameleon’s hideaway. the poem reads, “Called into the hanging garden/you sit there, almost unseen/as dusky shadows climb/the blooming Judas tree” (20-23). Judas was one of Jesus’ disciples, but he betrayed Jesus. This betrayal lead Jesus to his crucifixion. Judas was also a chameleon, and Komunyakaa uses this allusion to highlight his theme. Judas was successful in a sense; his goal was for Jesus to die. This exemplifies the fact that ‘chameleons’ generally emerge as victors. But, Judas’ story does not end in glory. The extreme guilt he faced led him to take his own life, hanging himself from a tree. This piece of history is meant to illustrate that being a chameleon comes wi...

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...set of emotions.
Along with Ode to the Chameleon, Facing It touches upon the subject of racial identity. He writes, “A white vet's image floats / closer to me, then his pale eyes / look through mine. I'm a window” (25-27). This description is very vague, and raises many questions; “Does the white vet see the speaker as someone with whom he has some shared history? In other words, does the white vet recognize the speaker to be a black vet and an equal?" (Kraus). Komunyakaa reveals what it’s like to be an african-american fighting alongside white soldiers. Even though he fought for the same cause as everyone else, he may not be seen as an equal. Empathy is vital in Komunyakaa’s opinion, so he writes poems from a variety of perspectives to connect ‘average’ people to other types of people in history that are not often written about in american literature (Salas).

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