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Frequently Asked Questions: #7

By Camille T. Dungy

Is it difficult to get away from it all once you've had a child?

 

I am swaying in the galley — working

to appease this infant who is not



fussing but will be fussing if I don't move —

            when a black steward enters the cramped space

 


            at the back of the plane. He stands by the food carts

prepping his service. Then he is holding his throat

 


the way we hold our throats when we think we are going to die.

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. He is crying. My God. What they did to us. 

 


I am swaying lest my brown baby girl make a nuisance

            of herself, and the steward is crying honest man tears.

 


Seeing you holding your daughter like that — for the first time,

I understand what they did to us. All those women sold away

 


from their babies, he whispers. I am at a loss now.

Perhaps I could fabricate an image to represent this

 


agony, but the steward has walked into the galley

of history. There is nothing figurative about us.

Added: Friday, January 12, 2018  /  From "Trophic Cascade" (Wesleyan University Press, 2017). Used with permission.
Camille T. Dungy
Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

Camille T. Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry: Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan UP, 2017), Smith Blue (Southern Illinois UP, 2011), Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010), and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006). Her debut collection of personal essays is Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History (W. W. Norton, 2017). She has also edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (UGA, 2009) and co-edited two other collections. Camille T. Dungy’s honors include an American Book Award, two NAACP Image Award nominations, Sustainable Arts Foundation fellowships, and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her poems and essays have been published in Best American Poetry, The 100 Best African American Poems, nearly thirty other anthologies, and over one hundred print and online journals. Dungy is currently a Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University.

Camille T. Dungy is a Featured Poet for Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2018. Visit the information page for more details.

Other poems by this author