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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

Because it looked hotter that way

Camille T. Dungy, 1972

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. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 14, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2014 by Camille Dungy. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 14, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Camille T. Dungy

Camille T. Dungy

Camille T. Dungy is the author of several books of poetry including, Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011).

by this poet

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	Between raindrops, 


			space, certainly,


but we call it all rain.


          I hang in the undrenched intervals,


while Callie is sleeping,


	my old self necessary


and imperceptible as air.
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A fifth of animals without backbones could be at risk of extinction, say scientists.
—BBC Nature News

Ask me if I speak for the snail and I will tell you
I speak for the snail.
                          speak of underneathedness
and the welcome of mosses,