Camille T. Dungy

Something About Grandfathers

Fit a fastener around inside and out,
twist it tight, then tighter, until intent
bulges to bursting, the way an eyeball (cartoon)
pops from the face of a strangled boy. Consider
a Christmas menagerie, complete with plastic
wise men carrying neon frankincense
and fool’s gold. Gold and something
we’ll call myrrh. This is how we hold on.
Because hope can satirize itself yet remain
sincere, devout. Your mother has you up before dawn
because it’s Easter. Worship before eggs
and ham and all of this and that. Hold on
like this. Or some other way, say with a shoe-
box full of her father’s military medals,
the slim portion of him you knew flattened in tin
and ribbon. Hold the ribbon like a subway strap
because this car is moves, shudders on rails
faster than a voice floating above a staircase
that belonged once to him who might call
you by that pet-name, might break you some brittle
in calloused hands were you to climb the stairs.
Hold on. Whose gone? The estimated average
is greater than one death per second. Wave
upon particular wave, incessant. Even ritual,
which is what we have to cope with, breaks down
like candy in a fist. Faster. Soon. Even this
thought, fear not, will be gone like dust
into piles, into bins, like air from the cheeks
into a trumpet’s bell, fuzzed by a mute into movement
that charges the room electric before the old man
in overalls brings out the mop. Gone like 8-tracks
wound down to a stretched out voice slowing
to crawl as a tape deck shreds tape.
After the car door closes to leave an echo
hanging in the canyon where it was shouted,
the red fields grow burred, then broken in snow.


Camille T. Dungy & Ravi Shankar