A Natural History: Camille T. Dungy


A Natural History of My Tiny Ears

by Camille T. Dungy

Camille T. Dungy’s ears were conceived and created in 1972, a year that saw a great deal of domestic and international conflict.  On the day Camille T. Dungy’s ears first made their appearance, Nixon stopped major bombing operations in North Vietnam.  So began three years of waxing and waning peace talks, the details of which Camille T. Dungy’s ears heard noon and night.  The day after the arrival of Camille T. Dungy’s ears, Roberto Clemente’s plane failed to safely convey the hope of a nation to Nicaragua where he would have delivered aid to earthquake victims.  Baseball, humanitarian aid missions, and the coast of Puerto Rico were implicated in the scandal. These early events taught Camille T. Dungy’s ears to be skeptical of any idea that requires too much time in the air.  Camille T. Dungy’s ears saw no reason to grow particularly large pinna or concha as they did not believe they needed to hear everything that came to them from far and wide.  Camille T. Dungy’s ears grew prepared to focus attention on closely deliberated confidences instead. Camille T. Dungy’s ears compel you to come near.  Like the female operatives of Bond movies and other propaganda films, in addition to being highly skilled and potentially dangerous, Camille T. Dungy’s ears are strikingly gorgeous.

The potential of Camille T. Dungy’s ears to distribute powerful and profitable resources was quickly realized, and like California water, Texas crude, Oregon hardwood, and Nebraska wind, the ears are managed by a corporate body.  Still, three and a half decades since their introduction to the United States, Camille T. Dungy’s ears have maintained their identity as a small business. When Camille T. Dungy was eighteen years old, she measured her ears against those of an 18-month-old cousin.  In terms of tinyness, Camille T. Dungy’s ears reigned supreme. You would be wrong to assume this incredible tinyness would render Camille T. Dungy’s ears somehow grotesque.  In fact, whereas many other aspects of Camille T. Dungy command attention for the fact they are well proportioned and large, her ears have garnered admirers for being perfectly proportioned but tiny. Camille T. Dungy’s ears relay an air of entitlement due to the fact they are one-of-a-kind.  Camille T. Dungy’s ears feel it might not be foolish to talk to Lloyds of London about a policy for them as said ears have brought much positive attention to Camille T. Dungy over the years.

In 2008, the renowned engineer, St. John, custom-built for Camille T. Dungy’s ears the first ear buds that actually fit in their tiny canals.  Engineers the world over raced to make even more flattering models for Camille T. Dungy’s previously unadorned ears.  In this, the makers of tiny ear buds are ahead of most adult ear adornment engineers.   No earring maker has created an earring delicate enough to compliment Camille T. Dungy’s ears, and so the lobes of Camille T. Dungy’s ears have never suffered an assignation with a safety pin, straight pin, nor piercing gun.  Camille T. Dungy’s ears do, however, enjoy the benefits of fun and festive earplugs.  Being far too small to accommodate run of the mill ear plugs, Camille T. Dungy’s ears have taken to using “Kid’s-Sized Ear Plugs—NOT FOR ADULTS!” in airplanes, next to snoring partners, and in the swimming pool.  The “Kid’s-Sized Ear Plugs—NOT FOR ADULTS!” which come in fashionable neon green, fashionable neon pink, and fashionable neon orange, allow Camille T. Dungy’s ears fits of smugness.

Camille T. Dungy’s ears often find other ears dull.  Less imaginative ears listen to Camille T. Dungy’s exploits and cannot comprehend nor relate. These duller ears and their eared stumble in the presence of Camille T. Dungy’s ears.  Records of such missteps are filed at headquarters. Each word and every gesture is monitored by stapes, incus, malleus, tympanic membrane.  The earlobes are most vigilant of all.  Attempt to bribe them with a set of diamond studs and you will have lost all hope of ever reaching Camille T. Dungy’s inner semi-circular canals.

A word of justifiable caution about small things like Camille T. Dungy’s ears: Tiny can be mighty worrisome.  Tiny ticks and fleas and mites and parasites have caused more casualties than lions and tigers and bears ever could.  Camille T. Dungy’s ears have yet to be proven deadly, but they have been known to be dangerous.  They are so small, they often go unnoticed, but they hear what they want to hear, when they want to hear it.  It took some years after the introduction of Camille T. Dungy into the United States before the connection between Camille T. Dungy’s ears and Camille T. Dungy’s mouth was properly monitored.  Since the last decade of the 20th century, when information enters Camille T. Dungy’s ears, it must pass through a series of canals and locks before exiting, if necessary through the mouth or, if headquarters prefers, remaining in a reservoir until such time as it is needed. Once this system reached full functionality (records indicate the last lock was constructed sometime around 1994), Camille T. Dungy’s ears proved less dangerous than they had been in the early years of perpetual floods.

It should also be noted that, given their enormously high opinion of themselves, coupled with some minor impediments, Camille T. Dungy’s ears sometimes overcompensate.  Don’t let Camille T. Dungy’s ears know I’m saying this, but sometimes they don’t hear very well.  It could be a result of all the surgeries they endured in their early years due to complications resulting from their diminutive size. It could be they are too quick to take in what other ears’ mouths have to say and so Camille T. Dungy’s ears don’t always take the time to really listen.  It could be that, because they are so small, certain large chunks of information are distorted by the time they reach Camille T. Dungy’s oval window, round window, or cochlea.  It is also quite possible, I am forced to admit, that Camille T. Dungy’s ears might sometimes participate in blatantly nefarious, or at the very least irresponsible, activities simply for the fun of it. A number of theories abound.  The point is, on more than one occasion, headquarters has discovered that Camille T. Dungy’s ears have passed along counterfeit materials. Precious resources have been wasted in an attempt to secure the homeland from an internal threat based on information passed on by Camille T. Dungy’s ears. In one instance, it turns out that, whereas Camille T. Dungy’s ears claimed to have heard her husband say he had contaminated a week’s worth of meals with radioactive byproducts, he had not been bragging about introducing heavy water but had been promising to replace the faucet filter so the water in the kitchen was not quite so hard.  And, the hairs on her neighboring bodies were up in arms for days after having stood unnecessarily on end when Camille T. Dungy’s mouth related something Camille T. Dungy’s ears had heard about how the average square yard of upholstered fabric contains up to one hundred million dust mites when in fact there are only about one hundred thousand dust mites in that amount of space. I trust you can see how this practice of counterfeiting can undermine the greater good.  Investigations are underway to seek the cause of this problem, and we trust there will not be as many issues with counterfeit information in the future.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should alert you to the fact that recent evidence suggests certain stresses on the lock and canal system constructed in the 90s have resulted in occasional information shortages.  In the face of such shortages, Camille T. Dungy’s mouth has been forced to fabricate information.  Let me be clear. This fabrication takes into account the best interest of the greater good.  No animals are harmed.  Only organic processes are employed.  Still, headquarters understands that when people come to realize that, given a shortage of information passed along from Camille T. Dungy’s ears to Camille T. Dungy’s mouth, Camille T. Dungy’s mouth is liable to create new information on the spot so as not to halt the flow of information therefrom, people might wonder just how much of the information they’ve been absorbing has been thusly fabricated and this might cause a general deflation in the value of all information that flows through Camille T. Dungy and out, through  Camille T. Dungy’s mouth, into the world, and so we are working, here at headquarters, on resolving this situation as quickly and completely as possible so that we can assure the world that all information coming from Camille T. Dungy’s mouth has flowed naturally and without non-approved embellishment directly from Camille T. Dungy’s ears.

Let me reiterate, since 1972 Camille T. Dungy’s tiny ears have been hard at work conveying quality information to and from Camille T. Dungy.  Look to Camille T. Dungy’s tiny ears for all your aesthetic, creative, and communication needs.  Camille T. Dungy’s Ears: Hear, for you.

ctds ears

Camille T. Dungy's ears, at the corporate headquarters.


Camille T. Dungy is a writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area.  You can find more of Camille’s work at the From the Fishouse website.



“A Natural History of My Tiny Ears” is part of the Natural Histories Project. Click here to learn more >>

Camille T. Dungy is author of What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006) and Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, due Spring 2010).  She is editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (UGA, 2009), and co-editor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea, 2009). Dungy has received fellowships from organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, Cave Canem, the Dana Award, and Bread Loaf, and she is associate professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University.



  1. This is a terrific piece, Camille. A real pleasure to read.

  2. I always thought those ears were cute; who knew they had such independent character as well?

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