By Camille T. Dungy

Sing the mass—
light upon me washing words
now that I am gone.

The sky was a hot, blue sheet the summer breeze fanned   
out and over the town.   I could have lived forever   
under that sky.   Forgetting where I was,   
I looked left, not right, crossed into a street   
and stepped in front of the bus that ended me.   

Will you believe me when I tell you it was beautiful—   
my left leg turned to uselessness and my right shoe flung   
some distance down the road?   Will you believe me   
when I tell you I had never been so in love   
with anyone as I was, then, with everyone I saw?   

The way an age-worn man held his wife’s shaking arm,   
supporting the weight that seemed to sing from the heart   
she clutched.   Knowing her eyes embraced the pile   
that was me, he guided her sacked body through the crowd.   
And the way one woman began a fast the moment she looked   

under the wheel.   I saw her swear off decadence.   
I saw her start to pray.   You see, I was so beautiful   
the woman sent to clean the street used words   
like police tape to keep back a young boy   
seconds before he rounded the grisly bumper.   

The woman who cordoned the area feared my memory   
would fly him through the world on pinions of passion   
much as, later, the sight of my awful beauty pulled her down   
to tears when she pooled my blood with water   
and swiftly, swiftly washed my stains away.

Camille Dungy, "Requiem" 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, Death

 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, Death


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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