Emergence Magazine

Artwork by Studio Airport


by Camille T. Dungy


Camille T. Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry: Trophic Cascade, Smith Blue, Suck on the Marrow, and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison. Her debut collection of personal essays is Guidebook to Relative Strangers. Camille edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry. Her honors include an American Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, two NAACP Image Award nominations, a California Book Award silver medal, and she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019. She is a professor in the English Department at Colorado State University and the poetry editor at Orion Magazine.


Studio Airport is Bram Broerse and Maurits Wouters. Together with a small team of creatives, they run a design practice based in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The studio has been recognized with international awards for projects such as Hart Island Project (New York), Amsterdam Art Council, and Greenpeace International.


The way she holds her huge limb forward,

patient and expectant, while the slight man

untethers the old prosthetic, a cage of metal,

polyurethane, and canvas large enough

that I could stand inside. Sweet elephant,

waiting as the man sets aside the artificial leg

then turns back to the nylon sleeve that cups

her nub, rolling it down like a lover

or a mother removes underwear from a body

they adore. That gently. That disinterested

in causing harm. That dear elephant, steady

all this time on her three remaining legs

while the man strokes the nub of her mine

blasted one, its pucker scar a forever wound

that reminds me of the chest of a woman

who has refused reconstructive surgery

after losing one breast to the scalpel. The scar

like a nipple stretched into a grin. I want

to compare the look of that nub to something

you will understand, America, but there’s no way

to say it other than this. When she was seven

months old, the elephant walked on a land mine.

After that, some people wanted to kill her.

How could she survive, doubled over and using

her trunk as a crutch, leaning always on trees?

Put her out of her misery, they said. But look

where she landed instead. In this sanctuary,

where every few months, as she continues

to grow, some people redesign and gently,

while she waits, warm gray and patient, secure

around her blasted nub a new and sturdy leg.

More Stories from Chapter 2: Ashes

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