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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.

Comments about Letter Home by Natasha Trethewey

  • Gold Star - 10,243 Points Tapan M. Saren (3/3/2016 3:36:00 AM)

    Hmm.. Nice one.. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Gold Star - 97,019 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

  • Rookie - 487 Points Alex Owulo Ogoh (11/14/2015 12:29:00 PM)

    Nicely penned. Thanks for sharing (Report) Reply

Read all 8 comments »

Poems About Home

  1. 1. They Went Home , Maya Angelou
  2. 2. To A Daughter Leaving Home , Linda Pastan
  3. 3. Home And Love , Robert William Service
  4. 4. Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead , Alfred Lord Tennyson
  5. 5. Home Burial , Robert Frost
  6. 6. Welcome Home , Spike Milligan
  7. 7. A Letter Home , Siegfried Sassoon
  8. 8. Home Thoughts, From Abroad , Robert Browning
  9. 9. Home For Thanksgiving , Linda Pastan
  10. 10. My Childhood Home I See Again , Abraham Lincoln
  11. 11. Home , Anne Brontë
  12. 12. Coming Home , Ernestine Northover
  13. 13. Letter Home , Natasha Trethewey
  14. 14. Journey Home , Rabindranath Tagore
  15. 15. Home, Sweet Home , John Howard Payne
  16. 16. Home After Three Months Away , Robert Lowell
  17. 17. A Home Song , Henry Van Dyke
  18. 18. Bound For Your Distant Home , Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
  19. 19. Home Thoughts, From The Sea , Robert Browning
  20. 20. Home Thoughts , Claude McKay
  21. 21. At Home , Christina Georgina Rossetti
  22. 22. Home , Zbigniew Herbert
  23. 23. Down Home , Lucy Maud Montgomery
  24. 24. Graydigger's Home , William Stafford
  25. 25. The Home , Rabindranath Tagore
  26. 26. Home From Abroad , Laurie Lee
  27. 27. Away From Home Are Some And I— , Emily Dickinson
  28. 28. A Martian Sends A Postcard Home , Craig Raine
  29. 29. Home Sweet Home , Siyabonga A Nxumalo
  30. 30. My Home , Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  31. 31. The Old Home Calls , Lucy Maud Montgomery
  32. 32. Home , Wilfrid Wilson Gibson
  33. 33. Come Home, Father! , Henry Clay Work
  34. 34. On Home Beaches , Les Murray
  35. 35. Variations At Home And Abroad , Kenneth Koch
  36. 36. Home , Rupert Brooke
  37. 37. Oh Stay At Home, My Lad , Alfred Edward Housman
  38. 38. Home, Sweet Home , Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
  39. 39. Who Goes Home? , Gilbert Keith Chesterton
  40. 40. Almost Home , Sandra Fowler
  41. 41. The Hangman At Home , Carl Sandburg
  42. 42. The Wrong Way Home , James Tate
  43. 43. The Princess: A Medley: Home They Brough.. , Alfred Lord Tennyson
  44. 44. When The Children Come Home , Henry Lawson
  45. 45. .home Sweet Home , Nikunj Sharma
  46. 46. Prophets At Home , Rudyard Kipling
  47. 47. How Bateese Came Home , William Henry Drummond
  48. 48. Night In The Old Home , Thomas Hardy
  49. 49. The Hock-Cart, Or Harvest Home , Robert Herrick
  50. 50. Sweet Stay-At-Home , William Henry Davies
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