Jamestown 2019

This poem will appear in the upcoming Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal: Weather, No. 24

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Jamestown 2019

Poem written on the imminent quadricentennial
of the White Lion’s arrival at Point Comfort,
Virginia—which ship carried the first 20-some people
—mostly young—who would begin to build
this nation with their bodies—black—and blood

rock the other mother’s babies down
slowly slowly slowly—maybe for four—yes
—for four hundred years —slowly slowly
—slowly rock the gone now babies down—
you know how a boat rocks on a calm

what rhymes with water rhymes with dry
your eyes—what rhymes with mothers
waiting at the corner—mothers waiting
at the coroner—these babies—their bodies
—they’ve kept them—hundreds of tears—

what rhymes with ocean rhymes with empty—
tell me—what rhymes with keep crying
I’ll give you something—today too
someone’s earth brown body baby discovered
who thought them no better than dirt

what rhymes with snatch a life and name it
building—this burden—don’t end there—
what rhymes with help the mothers love
these babies—help them help them help them
—help them rock their stolen babies down


Camille T. Dungy is a poet, essayist and editor whose eight books include Trophic Cascade, Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood and History, and Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry.