CAMILLE DUNGY New Developments


Someone had to invent the suitcase. Truly,
it would have been more than one someone.
An army of brains working on the problem
of baggage. And for how long? For centuries,
I suppose, we’ve been troubled by this one
question: How will we haul what we want
to bring with us? Should we drag it behind,
push it beside or before us, or lift it to carry
on our backs? Leather, or cloth, or some synthetic
that looks like leather or cloth or like nothing
natural—that looks like something human
minds alone have made—which should it be?
I’m starting to see suitcases with fire inside.
Not really fire—that’s not how we create
energy these days. What I mean is this:
these bags we make now are practically self
sufficient. Practically edible. They will charge
a phone so dependably a man could call for food
wherever he found himself. Which is as close,
these days, as most of us come to growing
and roasting what we eat. The last time
I went home, the fields around my parent’s house
had been built over. I’m not going to say
I thought of that place as paradise. Still, I think,
the beautiful black soil is gone. How are the people
who once tilled this land surviving? We have
new subdivisions, a couple of strip malls, a grade
school, some churches. There’s a restaurant
downtown called The Bread Basket. I see that.
I see cul-de-sacs named Turkey Run, Cub Drive,
Sturgeon Street—though the last time I saw wild
turkeys, that weren’t on a bottle, I was eighteen.
I’m glad I don’t live in that part of town
they call Indian Hills. Palimpsest is not equal
to retention. People complain about the way
we teach kids math these days. Helping
my daughter, I don’t understand the problem.
We used to be taught to carry our numbers. Think
how impractical this is. Who keeps pen and paper
handy for calculations in the grocery store? I can’t
explain what we’re doing now, but I have to accept
that it seems to be working. Given any equation,
it’s amazing how quickly this way gets us to zero.


Camille T. Dungy’s debut collection of personal essays is Guidebook to Relative Strangers (W. W. Norton, 2017), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is also the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan UP, 2017), winner of the Colorado Book Award. Dungy is currently a Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University. She lives in Fort Collins, CO with her husband and child.