Camille Dungy
soldier's girl

While he was gone, Mrs. Jeffers wanted someone around

who knew her son. So Mary went. Mostly to see

his trophy case. Mostly to trail the tension of her skin

along the etched brass that witnessed his victories.

Her palm cry quieted there, touching those lost spaces

inside his name. Mrs. Jeffers thought he’d joined up

for freedom. Mrs. Jeffers didn’t know her son.

She thought he would come home directly. But he didn’t

go straight home the day he crossed the line

with nothing but his name. Instead, he’d thrown gravel

at Mary’s window, and when she came running

to the yard, he told her why he’d joined. The recruiter promised

nothing more than a rifle, a backpack, and a hard time.

He told her no one had ever been straight with him before.

Then he kissed her. Kissed her like a man would kiss a woman,

after their children were asleep, if just that night,

his father’s noble battle lost, he’d held his body while he died.

Found In Volume 38, No. 01
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  • camille dungy by ray black
Camille Dungy
About the Author

Camille Dungy is author of Smith Blue, Suck on the Marrow, and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison. Her honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Dana Award, and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Associate Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, Dungy is co-editor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems That Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea, 2009).