Wednesday Feb 28

Camille-T-Dungy.jpg Camille T. Dungy is author of Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, January 2010) and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for
Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006), editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (UGA, 2009), and co-editor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea, 2009). She is associate professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University.

How Great the Gardens When They Thrive

hile wrens, one by one, resuscitate their small portion
of the light, yellow buses progress, leave their lots.
Goodbye scarlet fever. Help for influenza.
Penicillin, inoculation: The end of women,
with their children, shut up behind placarded doors.
Consider the praise songs we might compose
to antibiotics, immunization, the identification
and near eradication of microscopic organisms
that have blinded, maddened, paralyzed, and killed.
Yellow as zucchini flowers and, in their season,
as legion, school buses brake and collect,
brake and collect, at standard intervals
along the country’s subdividing roads.
Late summer, the wind trending toward cool.

from Prayer for P___

—for awhile things had been going well,
only an ungrateful woman would complain,
reaching, as ungrateful women reach,
higher than is warranted or right. I want this,
especially this, I want this
remembered: if ever anyone was grateful, P__ was
best known for being grateful, for she was
always grateful. And of course she was grateful
because for so long everything had been going fairly well. I’m sure
you can understand why
this much I remember about her. This much
only, I’m afraid. But I’ll claim
cartographer’s liberties. I’ll claim
omissions for the greater good. I am grateful
my imagination has been drafted for the greater good,
especially since what I mean to do is direct. I want to
be your guide. I have always been
afraid of steering someone incorrectly,
causing, by my own shortcoming, insufficient
knowledge, harm to another. It used to be they didn’t know,
so in those parts they drew danger—sea scorpions, enormous
octopi, leviathan—but also wonders, rising suns. The open sea is just that,
open. My dictionary has 64 definitions for the word open,
none of them defining how I feel now, my heart
a little more open because without her,
not the memory of her, the knowledge, not the insubstantial
decoys my mind sets up in lieu of her, but without the woman,
friend, her embodied body, without her this space is a little more
open, and now I am left to consider if there be anything, any
rare thing that might invoke her.   Who she was, marvelously
good. It used to be they didn’t know America,
only some folks put their experience
on paper. Mostly America was a dream spoken, directing another
dream, directing another dream, directing another, and P__,
when she heard America, heard what she wanted—
even those old map makers wanted us to want,
almost as much as they wanted us to fear,
to get to the places beyond the places we know. This is the way,
how we have always found more. Years before, P__ followed directions
even though this meant crossing out, over the open,
rough, sea. And, she was grateful, for awhile things went well…