Language by Camille T. Dungy

Silence is one part of speech, the war cry
of wind down a mountain pass another.
A stranger’s voice echoing through lonely
valleys, a lover’s voice rising so close
it’s your own tongue: these are keys to cipher,
the way the high hawk’s key unlocks the throat
of the sky and the coyote’s yip knocks
it shut, the way the aspens’ bells conform
to the breeze while the rapid’s drum defines
resistance. Sage speaks with once voice, pinyon
with another. Rock, wind her hand, water
her brush, spells and then scatters her demands.
Some notes tear and pebble our path. Some notes
gather: the bank we map our lives around.

Arthritis is one thing, the hurting another by Camille T. Dungy

The poet’s hands degenerate until her cup is too heavy.
You are not required to understand.
This is not the year for understanding.
This is the year of burning women in schoolyards
and raided homes, of tarped bodies on runways and in restaurants.
The architecture of the poet’s hands has turned upon itself.
This is not the year for palliatives. It is not the year for knowing what to do.
This is the year the planet grew smaller
and no country would consent to its defeat.
The poet’s cup is filled too full, a weight she cannot carry
from the table to her mouth, her lips, her tongue.
The poet’s hands are congenitally spoiled.
This is not one thing standing for another.
Listen, this year three ancient cities met their ruin, maybe more,
and many profited, but this is not news for the readers here.
Should I speak indirectly?
I am not the poet. Those are not my hands.
This is the year of deportations and mothers bereaved
of all of their sons. The year of third and fourth tours,
of cutting-edge weaponry and old-fashioned guns.
Last year was no better, and this year only lays the groundwork
for the years that are to come. Listen, this is a year like no other.
This is the year the doctors struck for want of aid
and schoolchildren were sent home in the morning
and lights and gas were unreliable
and, harvesters suspect, fruit had no recourse but rot.
Many are dying for want of a cure, and the poet is patient
and her hands cause the least of her pain.