Elegy for the Native Guards
We leave Gulfport at noon; gulls overhead
trailing the boat—streamers, noisy fanfare—
all the way to Ship Island. What we see
first is the fort, its roof of grass, a lee—
half reminder of the men who served there—
a weathered monument to some of the dead.
Inside we follow the ranger, hurried
though we are to get to the beach. He tells
of graves lost in the Gulf, the island split
in half when Hurricane Camille hit,
shows us casemates, cannons, the store that sells
souvenirs, tokens of history long buried.
The Daughters of the Confederacy
has placed a plaque here, at the fort's entrance—
each Confederate soldier's name raised hard
in bronze; no names carved for the Native Guards—
2nd Regiment, Union men, black phalanx.
What is monument to their legacy?
All the grave markers, all the crude headstones—
water-lost. Now fish dart among their bones,
and we listen for what the waves intone.
Only the fort remains, near forty feet high,
round, unfinished, half open to the sky,
the elements—wind, rain—God's deliberate eye.
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Comments about this poem (Elegy for the Native Guards by Natasha Trethewey )
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
(August 19, 1902 – May 19, 1971)
Edwin Arlington Robinson
(22 December 1869 – 6 April 1935)
(2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
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