Camille Dungy's Suck on the Marrow also begins on a field of faint traces. It has to -- it is talking about people history hasn't recorded, a painful chapter of American life in which free and freed blacks were captured from the North and sold back into slavery. Re-imagining these lives, Dungy offers us a haunting song cycle -- a drama no less well-plotted than a play's, but one that emerges in snippets of imagined letters. These poems are not about King anybody, but "Joseph Freeman," captured and sent South; his wife, Malinda, left to grieve without explanation, and Molly and Shad, who brave love on a Virginia plantation. Dungy's verse sings into absence, into places she's envisioned out of newspaper marginalia. Here are the sobering words of "The Trapper's Boast": "Give me a crowd of colored men and I can spot the new arrivals -- / freed men or fugitives -- / I can tell them from those born with a claim to their flesh./… My mark is the colored man at ease with his freedom."
At the end, where notes would normally document research, Dungy plays with us again -- her references, to research and to her own hunt for information -- are themselves a poem that stresses the task of representing incompleteness.