Almost Like They Wanted It
Because she’d heard him laugh through new moon darkness
and she knew he’d fallen and she knew, before she turned,
he’d be crawling, like a crawdad, rock to loam—
because she tried to love the straight back and neck
he’d erected to recollect the man he’d been
before—because she found herself adding up his usefulness
like some kind of auctioneer—she showed him
the dark coils areoling both her breasts and all the ways
she bent and lifted, bent and lifted, steady, strong.
She let him believe he was past due for a harvest
and her hands were the right ones, now, to hold onto the scythe.
She made quick work of pleasure. The boysmile bunked down
in his eyes, she claimed. Her tongue found the place in his mouth
where the teeth were gone—where he’d hold his corncakes
until they grew soft enough to chew. History had bedded him
in all of this—his own history and failures not his own.
Before he’d tramped in she’d watched another man—a man she’d thought
she’d hated—watched his body opened, opened, opened until
blood had married brine. She’d watch that man be whipped into something
good for nothing more than fertilizing clay and she’d thought
buckshot would have been a brand of kindness if sprayed into him
just then. But even after his hard going, she did not miss him very much.
Anyone she chose could be shucked like surplus property tomorrow,
but that hadn’t been enough to warn her off of picking him that night.
Because she knew if she set her sight on nothing she’d get nothing
in return, she’d walked with him. But because the night progressed so
—because there were some clouds—no stars—no moon—he’d tripped
over the branch of a dead and down tree. In all that darkness,
there, without a moon, even then, she had not fallen. She thought
to say so, but she did not say so. She did nothing
but say she was sorry for him. She did not use her mouth
to say this. Could he not listen to her hands? They spoke softly,
articulating her condolences, to his torn and bleeding skin.
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 (W. W. Norton, 2017). Dungy edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (UGA, 2009), co-edited the From the Fishouse poetry anthology (Persea, 2009), and served as associate editor for Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006).
Dungy’s honors include an American Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, two NAACP Image Award nominations, and a California Book Award silver medal. She is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Sustainable Arts Foundation, The Diane Middlebrook Residency Fellowship of the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and other organizations. Her poems and essays have been published in Best American Poetry, The 100 Best African American Poems, nearly 30 other anthologies, and more than a hundred print and online journals. Dungy is currently a professor in the English Department at Colorado State University.