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Best Famous Natasha Trethewey Poems

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by Natasha Trethewey |

Domestic Work 1937

 All week she's cleaned
someone else's house,
stared down her own face
in the shine of copper--
bottomed pots, polished
wood, toilets she'd pull
the lid to--that look saying

Let's make a change, girl.
But Sunday mornings are hers-- church clothes starched and hanging, a record spinning on the console, the whole house dancing.
She raises the shades, washes the rooms in light, buckets of water, Octagon soap.
Cleanliness is next to godliness .
.
.
Windows and doors flung wide, curtains two-stepping forward and back, neck bones bumping in the pot, a choir of clothes clapping on the line.
Nearer my God to Thee .
.
.
She beats time on the rugs, blows dust from the broom like dandelion spores, each one a wish for something better.


by Natasha Trethewey |

Flounder

 Here, she said, put this on your head.
She handed me a hat.
you 'bout as white as your dad, and you gone stay like that.
Aunt Sugar rolled her nylons down around each bony ankle, and I rolled down my white knee socks letting my thin legs dangle, circling them just above water and silver backs of minnows flitting here then there between the sun spots and the shadows.
This is how you hold the pole to cast the line out straight.
Now put that worm on your hook, throw it out and wait.
She sat spitting tobacco juice into a coffee cup.
Hunkered down when she felt the bite, jerked the pole straight up reeling and tugging hard at the fish that wriggled and tried to fight back.
A flounder, she said, and you can tell 'cause one of its sides is black.
The other is white, she said.
It landed with a thump.
I stood there watching that fish flip-flop, switch sides with every jump.


by Natasha Trethewey |

Letter Home

 --New Orleans, November 1910

Four weeks have passed since I left, and still
I must write to you of no work.
I've worn down the soles and walked through the tightness of my new shoes calling upon the merchants, their offices bustling.
All the while I kept thinking my plain English and good writing would secure for me some modest position Though I dress each day in my best, hands covered with the lace gloves you crocheted--no one needs a girl.
How flat the word sounds, and heavy.
My purse thins.
I spend foolishly to make an appearance of quiet industry, to mask the desperation that tightens my throat.
I sit watching-- though I pretend not to notice--the dark maids ambling by with their white charges.
Do I deceive anyone? Were they to see my hands, brown as your dear face, they'd know I'm not quite what I pretend to be.
I walk these streets a white woman, or so I think, until I catch the eyes of some stranger upon me, and I must lower mine, a negress again.
There are enough things here to remind me who I am.
Mules lumbering through the crowded streets send me into reverie, their footfall the sound of a pointer and chalk hitting the blackboard at school, only louder.
Then there are women, clicking their tongues in conversation, carrying their loads on their heads.
Their husky voices, the wash pots and irons of the laundresses call to me.
I thought not to do the work I once did, back bending and domestic; my schooling a gift--even those half days at picking time, listening to Miss J--.
How I'd come to know words, the recitations I practiced to sound like her, lilting, my sentences curling up or trailing off at the ends.
I read my books until I nearly broke their spines, and in the cotton field, I repeated whole sections I'd learned by heart, spelling each word in my head to make a picture I could see, as well as a weight I could feel in my mouth.
So now, even as I write this and think of you at home, Goodbye is the waving map of your palm, is a stone on my tongue.