Natasha Trethewey

Letter Home - Poem by Natasha Trethewey

- 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.

Topic(s) of this poem: home

Comments about Letter Home by Natasha Trethewey

  • Gold Star - 13,715 Points Susan Williams (11/14/2015 4:20:00 PM)

    I have never read her before- -this is so awesome that I cannot wait to read more, A HUGE talent (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Rookie - 210 Points Alex Ogoh (11/14/2015 12:29:00 PM)

    Nicely penned. Thanks for sharing (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 12,153 Points Anil Kumar Panda (11/14/2015 8:36:00 AM)

    Such a beautiful drop! Straight from heart. Honest and free. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 897 Points Aaron Wambu (11/14/2015 6:43:00 AM)

    Aaawh, , the piece is sentimentally moving and the words are expressed in utter honesty, love it (Report) Reply

  • Gold Star - 13,933 Points Ratnakar Mandlik (11/14/2015 1:25:00 AM)

    Pathetic condition of one who had left home in search of job and was unable to find one has been adroitly described in the letter to home. The dejection expressed is really touching. Superb diction, Enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing.10 points. (Report) Reply

  • Silver Star - 3,066 Points Dutendra Chamling (10/31/2015 5:56:00 AM)

    Natasha Trethewey has different language, wonderful poem. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie May Xu (5/3/2013 4:07:00 AM)

    Sadness is sore if not unique. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: work, school, women, girl, woman, home, dark

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

Poem Edited: Friday, January 9, 2015

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