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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, most recently Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), winner of the Colorado Book Award, and the essay collection Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History (W.W. Norton, 2017), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has edited anthologies including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. Her honors include NEA Fellowships in poetry (2003) and prose (2018), an American Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, two NAACP Image Award nominations, and two Hurston/Wright Legacy Award nominations. Her poems have been published in Best American Poetry, The 100 Best African American Poems, and over thirty other anthologies. She is a professor at Colorado State University.

Other poems by this author