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Excerpt: "Thrall: Poems" by Natasha Trethewey

Excerpt: "Thrall: Poems" by Natasha Trethewey

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Published by wamu8850
Excerpt from "Thrall: Poems" by Natasha Trethewey. Poems include "Help, 1968," "Elegy for My Father," and "Enlightenment." Copyright 2012 by Natasha Trethewey. Reprinted here by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Excerpt from "Thrall: Poems" by Natasha Trethewey. Poems include "Help, 1968," "Elegy for My Father," and "Enlightenment." Copyright 2012 by Natasha Trethewey. Reprinted here by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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Published by: wamu8850 on Jan 23, 2013
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07/10/2013

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3. Help, 1968 
after Robert Frank, from the series
The Americans
 
Wh
en I see Frank’s photograph
 of a white infant in the dark armsof a woman who must be the maid,I think of my mother and the yearwe spent alone
 — 
my father at sea.The woman stands in profile, back against a wall, holding her charge,their faces side-by-side
 — 
the look 
on the child’s face strangely prescient,
a small dimple furrowing the spacebetween her brows. Neither of themlooks toward the camera; nordo they look at each other. That year,when my mother took me for walks,she was mistaken again and againfor my maid. Years later she told me
she’d say I was
her daughter, and each timestrangers would stare in disbelief, thenempty the change from their pockets. NowI think of the betrayals of flesh, howshe must have tried to make of her facean inscrutable mask and hold it thereas they pressed coins into my hands.How like the woman in the photographshe must have seemed, carrying me
 
each day
 — 
white in her arms
 — 
as if she were a prop: a black backdrop,the dark foil in this American story.
 
Elegy
 — 
 for my father 
I think by now the river must be thick with salmon. Late August, I imagine itas it was that morning: drizzle needlingthe surface, mist at the banks like a netsettling around us
 — 
everything dampand shining. That morning, awkwardand heavy in our hip waders, we stalkedinto the current and found our places
 — 
 you upstream a few yards, and outfar deeper. You must remember howthe river seeped in over your bootsand you grew heavier with that defeat.All day I kept turning to watch you, howfirs
t you mimed our guide’s casting
 then cast your invisible line, slicing the sky between us; and later, rod in hand, howyou tried
 — 
again and again
 — 
to findthat perfect arc, flight of an insect
skimming the river’s surface. Perhaps
you recall I cast my line and reeled in

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