Pause here at the flower stand-mums
and gladiolas, purple carnations
dark as my heart. We are preparing
for a war, and I want to drag home
any distraction I can carry. Tonight
children will wake to bouquets of 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 flame throwers: the peonies,
the sunflowers. I will cut down the beautiful ones
and let their nectared 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 catalogued
our arsenal. You taught me that devastation
is a goal we will announce in a celebration
of shrapnel. Our bombs will 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 these 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.
Camille T. Dungy was born in Denver, Colorado and grew up in California. She received her B.A. from Stanford University and M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Dungy is the author of Smith Blue, winner of the 2010 Crab Orchard Open Book Prize, Suck on the Marrow, and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison. Her poems and essays have been published widely in anthologies, print, and online journals. She is also the editor of several anthologies, including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African-American Nature Poetry.
She is a two-time recipient of the Northern California Book Award, a Silver Medal Winner in the California Book Award, and two-time NAACP Image Award nominee. She was recognized in the Huffington Post Top 200 Advocates for American Poetry for her role as co-founder of From the Fishouse, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the oral tradition of poetry. Recently a professor in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University, Dungy is now a Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University.
Used with permission by Camille Dungy, originally published in DC Poets Against the War: An Anthology