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