My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman's trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.
A man is standing in front of the wall at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial that lists all the soldiers' names who have died. He is looking in, seeing his reflection, and feeling the swell of sadness "I said I wouldn't, dammit: No tears." He feels this rush of emotion because the narrator toured in Vietnam.
There is a lot of imagery in the poem, mainly focusing around what the narrator physically sees inside the stone wall. Reflections of a woman's blouse and a woman brushing a boy's hair are some. Also, the narrator recieves images in his thoughts of some of the soldiers. He touches the name Andrew Johnson and sees him caught in a flash and boobytrap, most likely an explosion, and also a white vet appears to him without an arm. He feels like he is a window to these spirits. Both of these views in the wall halp to emphasize the narrator being trapped in it.
There is a large feeling of fearful compassion in this poem. One example is the narrator and his connection to the other names. Another would be the view of the woman brushing a boy's hair. The narrator at first thinks she is trying to erase names, possibly out of disbelief, as if she will not accept the fact that someone is not coming home.