Letter Home Poem by Natasha Trethewey

Letter Home

Rating: 3.9

- 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.

Susan Williams 14 November 2015

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

28 1 Reply
Anil Kumar Panda 14 November 2015

Such a beautiful drop! Straight from heart. Honest and free.

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Alex Owulo Ogoh 14 November 2015

Nicely penned. Thanks for sharing

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Dutendra Chamling 31 October 2015

Natasha Trethewey has different language, wonderful poem.

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May Xu 03 May 2013

Sadness is sore if not unique.

2 1 Reply

there the poetic feelings roaming in and outwardly; just stupendous

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Rose Marie Juan-austin 16 June 2021

Deeply touching and poignant write. A wonderful poem well crafted.

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Sylvia Frances Chan 16 June 2021

2) To me her successes have counted double for me, because her chances were not as much as at present day. Congratulations being chosen as The Modern Poem Of The Day. My great respect for Natasha.5 Stars full for this thought-provoking poem, brilliantly worded.

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Sylvia Frances Chan 16 June 2021

1) 5 Stars full for this touching great poem about the early years when the racial situations were entirely different than at the time the great poetess was born.

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Dr Antony Theodore 30 April 2020

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. a very good poem. tony

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