Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Requiem

Enlarge poem

Sing the mass—

light upon me washing words

now that I am gone.

The sky was a hot, blue sheet the summer breeze fanned

out and over the town. I could have lived forever

under that sky. Forgetting where I was,

I looked left, not right, crossed into a street

and stepped in front of the bus that ended me.

Will you believe me when I tell you it was beautiful—

my left leg turned to uselessness and my right shoe flung

some distance down the road? Will you believe me

when I tell you I had never been so in love

with anyone as I was, then, with everyone I saw?

The way an age-worn man held his wife’s shaking arm,

supporting the weight that seemed to sing from the heart

she clutched. Knowing her eyes embraced the pile

that was me, he guided her sacked body through the crowd.

And the way one woman began a fast the moment she looked

under the wheel. I saw her swear off decadence.

I saw her start to pray. You see, I was so beautiful

the woman sent to clean the street used words

like police tape to keep back a young boy

seconds before he rounded the grisly bumper.

The woman who cordoned the area feared my memory

would fly him through the world on pinions of passion

much as, later, the sight of my awful beauty pulled her down

to tears when she pooled my blood with water

and swiftly, swiftly washed my stains away.

from What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006)

Camille T. Dungy

Featured Poem:

Daisy Cutter

Enlarge poem

Pause here at the flower stand—mums
and gladiolas, purple carnations

dark as my heart. We are engaged
in a war, and I want to drag home

any distraction I can carry. Tonight
children will wake to bouquets of fire

that will take their breath away. Still,
I think of my life. The way you hold me,

sometimes, you could choke me.
There is no way to protect myself,

except by some brilliant defense. I want
the black iris with their sabered blooms.

I want the flame throwers: the peonies,
the sunflowers. I will cut down the beautiful ones

and let their nectared sweetness bleed
into the careless air. This is not the world

I’d hoped it could be. It is horrible,
the way we carry on. Last night, you catalogued

our arsenal. You taught me devastation
is a goal we announce in a celebration

of shrapnel. Our bombs shower
in anticipation of their marks. You said this

is to assure damage will be widely distributed.
What gruesome genius invents our brutal hearts?

When you touch me I am a stalk of green panic
and desire. Wait here while I decide which

of these sprigs of blossoming heartbreak I can afford
to bring into my home. Tonight dreams will erupt

in chaotic buds of flame. This is the world we have
arranged. It is horrible, this way we carry on.

from Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, July 2011)

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Biography

Camille T. Dungy is author of Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010) and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006), a finalist for the PEN Center USA 2007 Literary Award and the Library of Virginia 2007 Literary Award.

She is editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (University of Georgia Press, 2009), coeditor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea, 2009) and assistant editor of Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006).

Dungy has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Cave Canem, the Dana Award, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Once the Writer-in-Residence at Rocky Mountain National Park, Dungy has also been awarded fellowships and residencies by The Corporation of Yaddo, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Norton Island/Eastern Frontier Society, and the Ragdale Foundation.

A graduate of Stanford University and the University of North Carolina, Greensboro’s MFA Program, Dungy is currently Associate Professor in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University. Her poems have been published widely in anthologies and print and online journals.

Camille T. Dungy

Biography

Camille T. Dungy is author of Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010) and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006), a finalist for the PEN Center USA 2007 Literary Award and the Library of Virginia 2007 Literary Award.

She is editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (University of Georgia Press, 2009), coeditor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea, 2009) and assistant editor of Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006).

Dungy has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Cave Canem, the Dana Award, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Once the Writer-in-Residence at Rocky Mountain National Park, Dungy has also been awarded fellowships and residencies by The Corporation of Yaddo, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Norton Island/Eastern Frontier Society, and the Ragdale Foundation.

A graduate of Stanford University and the University of North Carolina, Greensboro’s MFA Program, Dungy is currently Associate Professor in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University. Her poems have been published widely in anthologies and print and online journals.

Requiem

Enlarge poem

Sing the mass—

light upon me washing words

now that I am gone.

The sky was a hot, blue sheet the summer breeze fanned

out and over the town. I could have lived forever

under that sky. Forgetting where I was,

I looked left, not right, crossed into a street

and stepped in front of the bus that ended me.

Will you believe me when I tell you it was beautiful—

my left leg turned to uselessness and my right shoe flung

some distance down the road? Will you believe me

when I tell you I had never been so in love

with anyone as I was, then, with everyone I saw?

The way an age-worn man held his wife’s shaking arm,

supporting the weight that seemed to sing from the heart

she clutched. Knowing her eyes embraced the pile

that was me, he guided her sacked body through the crowd.

And the way one woman began a fast the moment she looked

under the wheel. I saw her swear off decadence.

I saw her start to pray. You see, I was so beautiful

the woman sent to clean the street used words

like police tape to keep back a young boy

seconds before he rounded the grisly bumper.

The woman who cordoned the area feared my memory

would fly him through the world on pinions of passion

much as, later, the sight of my awful beauty pulled her down

to tears when she pooled my blood with water

and swiftly, swiftly washed my stains away.

from What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006)

Featured Poem:

Daisy Cutter

Enlarge poem

Pause here at the flower stand—mums
and gladiolas, purple carnations

dark as my heart. We are engaged
in a war, and I want to drag home

any distraction I can carry. Tonight
children will wake to bouquets of fire

that will take their breath away. Still,
I think of my life. The way you hold me,

sometimes, you could choke me.
There is no way to protect myself,

except by some brilliant defense. I want
the black iris with their sabered blooms.

I want the flame throwers: the peonies,
the sunflowers. I will cut down the beautiful ones

and let their nectared sweetness bleed
into the careless air. This is not the world

I’d hoped it could be. It is horrible,
the way we carry on. Last night, you catalogued

our arsenal. You taught me devastation
is a goal we announce in a celebration

of shrapnel. Our bombs shower
in anticipation of their marks. You said this

is to assure damage will be widely distributed.
What gruesome genius invents our brutal hearts?

When you touch me I am a stalk of green panic
and desire. Wait here while I decide which

of these sprigs of blossoming heartbreak I can afford
to bring into my home. Tonight dreams will erupt

in chaotic buds of flame. This is the world we have
arranged. It is horrible, this way we carry on.

from Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, July 2011)

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (1)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Requiem

Enlarge poem

Sing the mass—

light upon me washing words

now that I am gone.

The sky was a hot, blue sheet the summer breeze fanned

out and over the town. I could have lived forever

under that sky. Forgetting where I was,

I looked left, not right, crossed into a street

and stepped in front of the bus that ended me.

Will you believe me when I tell you it was beautiful—

my left leg turned to uselessness and my right shoe flung

some distance down the road? Will you believe me

when I tell you I had never been so in love

with anyone as I was, then, with everyone I saw?

The way an age-worn man held his wife’s shaking arm,

supporting the weight that seemed to sing from the heart

she clutched. Knowing her eyes embraced the pile

that was me, he guided her sacked body through the crowd.

And the way one woman began a fast the moment she looked

under the wheel. I saw her swear off decadence.

I saw her start to pray. You see, I was so beautiful

the woman sent to clean the street used words

like police tape to keep back a young boy

seconds before he rounded the grisly bumper.

The woman who cordoned the area feared my memory

would fly him through the world on pinions of passion

much as, later, the sight of my awful beauty pulled her down

to tears when she pooled my blood with water

and swiftly, swiftly washed my stains away.

from What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006)

Comments

Your email address will not be published.