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A week before the woman whose tree
that golden dog was tied to died, I watched
my daughter trust its limbs. She sat still a long time
beyond reach of a buzzing that seemed to begin
on the walk & grow louder near the front door.
Thanksgiving is a word we use most often
in conjunction with feeling full nearly to excess.
I mean what I felt witnessing that ascension—
an ascension made by nearly every other child
who’s grown up, even a little, around that house—
seeing her trust her body doing something
other bodies had already done. I am,
I hope you understand, not talking about my daughter.
I need to remember how focused Aunt Mary was
on watching her body climbing so fast & so high.
There was something graceful in that ascension.
This, too, is a way to speak about thanksgiving.
Her legs, her heart, her vision worked like necessary
magic. Then stopped. I can still taste the cool buttery skin
of her forehead—though it’s weeks ago now
I last kissed her. “Apple of my eye” I want to say
she called me, because she made me—some of you
understand this—feel so deeply loved.
But I can’t put words in her mouth. The truth
is she craved peaches all summer. Fruit from the tree
in her own yard wasn’t anything anyone wanted
to eat. But the mulberry made for good climbing. Cast
cooling shade. The week after she died, it was some relief
to stop pacing circles whose circumferences
measured our grief in time to see that retriever
—leash wrapped at the place the trunk split.
She bounded & pranced in what we took to be wild
joy before we understood what truly moved her.
Lord. Oh, Lord. Please understand how much—
I think even now—the woman we loved loved
beautiful animals. What sense is there to make of this?
We watched that gorgeous creature run through the house
out to the other yard. She’d been released
from the lead that kept her tied to a suffering
that came down on her body as a mad hornet swarm.
No sense in this either, but as we watched her pass
we could have sworn she was still dancing.
Read other poems from What Nature here.
Camille T. Dungy is the author of Smith Blue, Suck on the Marrow, and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison. She edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, co-edited the From the Fishouse poetry anthology, and served as assistant editor for Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade. Her honors include an American Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, a California Book Award silver medal, a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant, and a fellowship from the NEA. Dungy is currently a Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University.
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