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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 - 12,179 Points Tapan M. Saren (3/3/2016 3:36:00 AM)

    Hmm.. Nice one.. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Gold Star - 121,618 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. A Letter Home , Siegfried Sassoon
  5. 5. Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead , Alfred Lord Tennyson
  6. 6. Home Burial , Robert Frost
  7. 7. Home For Thanksgiving , Linda Pastan
  8. 8. Welcome Home , Spike Milligan
  9. 9. My Childhood Home I See Again , Abraham Lincoln
  10. 10. Home , Anne Brontë
  11. 11. Home Thoughts, From Abroad , Robert Browning
  12. 12. Coming Home , Ernestine Northover
  13. 13. Home After Three Months Away , Robert Lowell
  14. 14. Journey Home , Rabindranath Tagore
  15. 15. A Home Song , Henry Van Dyke
  16. 16. Home, Sweet Home , John Howard Payne
  17. 17. Come Home, Father! , Henry Clay Work
  18. 18. Letter Home , Natasha Trethewey
  19. 19. Bound For Your Distant Home , Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
  20. 20. Down Home , Lucy Maud Montgomery
  21. 21. Home From Abroad , Laurie Lee
  22. 22. The Home , Rabindranath Tagore
  23. 23. At Home , Christina Georgina Rossetti
  24. 24. My Home , Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  25. 25. Home Thoughts , Claude McKay
  26. 26. Home Thoughts, From The Sea , Robert Browning
  27. 27. Graydigger's Home , William Stafford
  28. 28. Away From Home Are Some And I— , Emily Dickinson
  29. 29. A Martian Sends A Postcard Home , Craig Raine
  30. 30. The Old Home Calls , Lucy Maud Montgomery
  31. 31. Home , Wilfrid Wilson Gibson
  32. 32. Home , Zbigniew Herbert
  33. 33. Variations At Home And Abroad , Kenneth Koch
  34. 34. Who Goes Home? , Gilbert Keith Chesterton
  35. 35. Home Sweet Home , Siyabonga A Nxumalo
  36. 36. The Hangman At Home , Carl Sandburg
  37. 37. On Home Beaches , Les Murray
  38. 38. Home , Rupert Brooke
  39. 39. Home, Sweet Home , Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
  40. 40. Sweet Stay-At-Home , William Henry Davies
  41. 41. Almost Home , Sandra Fowler
  42. 42. The Wrong Way Home , James Tate
  43. 43. Oh Stay At Home, My Lad , Alfred Edward Housman
  44. 44. The Princess: A Medley: Home They Brough.. , Alfred Lord Tennyson
  45. 45. When The Children Come Home , Henry Lawson
  46. 46. .home Sweet Home , Nikunj Sharma
  47. 47. Prophets At Home , Rudyard Kipling
  48. 48. How Bateese Came Home , William Henry Drummond
  49. 49. Night In The Old Home , Thomas Hardy
  50. 50. To Friends At Home , Robert Louis Stevenson
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