Camille T. Dungy reads at the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival



I read three short poems thus first as as many of my poems are in a conversation with Rita we were just in another festival a couple of weeks ago and reading poems about our daughters frequently asked questions number five do you have big plans for her first birthday tomorrow this will all be over she will take a step and the tide that fills the tidepools will come in the last crop of almonds in the world must begin as nothing but a thousand thousand minuscule blossoms I have loved every cell of her body from the time I could count them until now why hurry her progress when each day is as gorgeous as the last she will take a step and the beekeeper will plant his hives in the orchard walk away since I'm talking about bees this next poem begins with an epigraph from BBC nature news a fifth of animals without backbones could be at risk of extinction say scientists characteristics of life ask me if I speak for the snail and I will tell you I speak for the snail I speak of underneath it nests and the welcome of mosses of life that springs up little lives that pull back and wait for a moment I speak for the damselfly water skeet mollusk the caterpillar the beetle the spider the ant I speak from the time before spinelessness was frowned upon ask me if I speak for the moon jelly I will tell you one thing today and another tomorrow and I will be as consistent as anything alive on this earth I move as the currents move with the breezes what part of your nature drives you you in your cubicle ought to understand me I filter and filter and filter all day ask me if I speak for the Nautilus and I will be silent as the nautilus shell on a shelf I can be beautiful and useless if that's all you know to ask of me ask me what I know of longing and I will speak of distances between meadows of night blooming flowers I will speak the impossible hope of the Firefly you with the candle burning and own one chair at your table must understand such wordless desire to say it is mindless is missing the point and one more poem daisy cutter' pause here at the flower stand mums and gladiolas purple carnations dark as my heart we are engaged in a war and i want to drag home any distraction I can carry tonight children will wake two bouquets a fire that will take their breath away still I think of my life the way you hold me sometimes you could choke me there is no way to protect myself except by some brilliant defense I want the black iris with their sabered blooms I want the flamethrowers the peonies the sunflowers I will cut down the beautiful ones and let their nectar sweetness bleed into the careless air this is not the world I'd hoped it could be it is horrible the way we carry on last night you cataloged our arsenal you taught me devastation is a goal we announced in a celebration of shrapnel our bomb shower in anticipation of their marks you said this is to assure damage will be widely distributed what gruesome genius invents our brutal hearts when you touch me I am a stalk of green panic and desire wait here while I decide which of the sprigs of blossoming heartbreak I can afford to bring into my home tonight dreams will erupt in chaotic buds of flame this is the world we have arranged it is horrible this way we carry on thank you Camille tea dougie you

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