Interior Image

Camille T. Dungy

Years: 2001, 2002, 2004


Camille T. Dungy is the author of Smith Blue, Suck on the Marrow, and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison.  She is the editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, co-editor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great , and assistant editor of Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade.   Her honors include the 2011 American Book Award, a silver medal in the 2011 California Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, two NAACP Image Award nominations, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, Cave Canem, and Bread Loaf. Dungy is a professor in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University.  Her poems and essays have been published widely in anthologies and print and online journals. 



The little building in which I find the ancient cloister store-room of St. Severin, which is going to disappear


--Eugène Atget, Printing Out Paper (1903)


All that will be lost has been set already into stone

from which the Madonna and her child emerged,

Mary already weeping, or perhaps not yet begun.


Centuries have torn the human features

from her face.  The store-room she protects,

centuries dismantled even those good intentions.


The city turns away and concentrates

on swallows.  Puddles pond the patio, reflecting

the three beams that buttress one remaining wall.


The burred trees’ vernation, another unseen.

The leafing will dormant? Or finally done? The city

turns away and concentrates on mortar. In faith,


this view is but a portion of all a soul might apprehend

who wandered through the past’s unkept cloister

some early hour, before the warming spring. But here,


if by here is meant now, this is all the negative, developed,

revealed. The city turns away and concentrates on all

it must desire.  One gothic archway framing a window,


light crowding the left corner, overexposing the print—

gelatin silver emulsion, paper toned with broken-down gold.

Mary already weeping, or perhaps not yet begun.



From Smith Blue, Southern Illinois University Press