First Fire

By Camille T. Dungy
Stripped in a flamedance, the bluff backing our houses   
quivered in wet-black skin.   A shawl of haze tugged tight   
around the starkness. We could have choked on August.   

Smoke thick in our throats, nearly naked as the earth,   
we played bare feet over the heat caught in asphalt.   
Could we, green girls, have prepared for this?   Yesterday,   

we played in sand-carpeted caves.   The store we built   
sold broken bits of ice plant, empty snail shells, leaves.   
Our school’s walls were open sky.   We reeled in wonder   

from the hills, oblivious to the beckoning   
crescendo and to our parent’s hushed communion.   
When our bluff swayed into the undulation, we ran   

into the still streets of our suburb, feet burning   
against a fury that we did not know was change.

Camille Dungy, "First Fire" from What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison. Copyright 2006 Camille Dungy. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

Source: What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (

Red Hen Press
, 2006)

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Poet Camille T. Dungy


Subjects Living, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Youth

 Camille T. Dungy


Poet and editor Camille T. Dungy was born in Denver but moved often as her father, an academic physician, taught at many different medical schools across the country. She earned a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
Dungy’s full-length poetry publications include Smith Blue (2011), a finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America; Suck on . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Youth


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