My name, Camille, means witness at the sacrifice.
What could I make of this when I was young? What sacrifice?
Coastal breeze and jacaranda trees when I was young.
When we moved, the hope of temperate weather was one sacrifice.
The first midwestern winter seemed so dark. So dark so long.
In that cold, people’s elaborate light displays had to be sacrificed.
It seems a small thing, looking back and dwelling on the weather.
Small compared to history. All our people’s blood and sacrifice.
Boulevards in the new town lined with ghosts of long dead elms.
I’ve also seen helper, attendant, youth who assists with the sacrifice.
The grey seeped into us and we were hard on each other.
Mother and me. It strikes me now to wonder what she’d sacrificed.
Our money went further. The new town was much safer for me.
In French, Camille is a name for a boy who stands by the priest at a sacrifice.
When I was young, I thought of pyres. Slaughtered oxen.
Rams. Cornucopias spilling onto marble altars for the sacrifice.
She had a group of friends she’d met every Saturday.
A house she’d built. A coast that calmed her. What else?
Sweet sounds in the new town: wind through river birch branches.
But not the sound of the sisterly laughter she sacrificed.
I am the age she was then. Spring after spring I grow into myself.
As she’d hoped. She named me Camille: witness to the sacrifice.
Photograph of Camille T. Dungy by Beowulf Sheehan.