January 14, 2014

Because it looked hotter that way

we let our hair down. It wasn't so much that we 
worried about what people thought or about keeping it real 
but that we knew this was our moment. We knew we'd blow our cool 
sooner or later. Probably sooner. Probably even before we 
got too far out of Westmont High and had kids of our own who left 
home wearing clothes we didn't think belonged in school. 
Like Mrs. C. whose nearly unrecognizably pretty senior photo we 
passed every day on the way to Gym, we'd get old. Or like Mr. Lurk 
who told us all the time how it's never too late 
to throw a Hail Mary like he did his junior year and how we 
could win everything for the team and hear the band strike 
up a tune so the cheer squad could sing our name, too. Straight 
out of a Hallmark movie, Mr. Lurk's hero turned teacher story. We 
had heard it a million times. Sometimes he'd ask us to sing 
with him, T-O-N-Y-L-U-R-K Tony Tony Lurk Lurk Lurk. Sin 
ironia, con sentimiento, por favor, and then we 
would get back to our Spanish lessons, opening our thin 
textbooks, until the bell rang and we went on to the cotton gin 
in History. Really, this had nothing to do with being cool. We 
only wanted to have a moment to ourselves, a moment before Jazz 
Band and after Gym when we could look in the mirror and like it. June 
and Tiffany and Janet all told me I looked pretty. We 
took turns saying nice things, though we might just as likely say, Die 
and go to hell. Beauty or hell. No difference. The bell would ring soon. 
With thanks to "We Real Cool" by Gwendolyn Brooks



Copyright � 2014 by Camille Dungy. Used with permission of the author.

About This Poem 

"I find that received forms can connect me to new inspiration. This poem is a 'Golden Shovel.' The acrostic form, popularized by Terrance Hayes, uses each word of 'We Real Cool' by Gwendolyn Brooks as the last word of each line. Coming up with something to do with 'lurk' and with 'sin' and with 'gin' pushed my writing process in an unexpected direction. For me, writing in received forms also highlights my connection to a community of writers, living and dead. Every time I write a sonnet, for instance, I am in the company of other poets who have written their own sonnets. This make the solitary art of writing far less lonely."

--Camille Dungy  





Camille Dungy is the author of several books of poems, including Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011). She is a professor in the English Department at Colorado State University. 



Most Recent Book by Dungy

(Southern Illinois University Press, 2011)







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