Native Guard
Natasha Trethewey
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Buy *Native Guard: Poems* by Natasha Trethewey online

Native Guard: Poems
Natasha Trethewey
64 pages
April 2007
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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In language that bridges the troubled history of the South and her own world as a bi-racial daughter, Trethewey brings a unique perspective to a black and white world, treading the years of state against state, slavery, the remnants of a bitter loss and the barriers constructed to a smoldering past:

“At the cross trussed like a Christmas tree,
a few men gathered, white as angels in their gowns.

It seemed the angels had gathered, white men in their gowns.
When they were done, they left quietly. No one came.”
Intimately aware of place – Mississippi - and the traditions of prejudice, the poet grows as an exotic flower between two worlds, accepting what the end will bring:
“Where the roads, buildings, and monuments
        are named to honor the Confederacy,

where that old flag still hangs, I return
         to Mississippi, the state that made a crime

of me- mulatto, half-breed- native
         in my native land, this place they’ll bury me.”
Throughout these poems, many of which speak directly to a particular history, Trethewey’s language is clear and precise, images springing from the past:
“Before the war, they were happy, he said,
quoting our textbook…

… The slaves were clothed, fed,
and better off under a master’s care.

On a screen a slave stood big as life: big mouth,

Bucked eyes, our textbook grinning proof - a lie
My teacher guarded. Silent, so did I.”
                (Southern History)
“Native Guard” addresses the Civil War, month by month, from 1862-64, etching into time what should not be forgotten:
(January 1863)
“And are we not the same,
slaves in the hands of the master, destiny?

(June 1863)
“Death makes equals of us all: a fair master.

Beneath battlefields, green again,
The dead molder- a scaffolding of bone
We tread upon, forgetting. Truth be told.”
                (Native Guard)
As the poet’s words flow like the years of her history and an intimate awareness of place, Trethewey speaks in tongues of longing, of love for those who gave her life and in curiosity, that such a place in all its strange beauty should be the battleground of hatred and fear. History unfolds, yet she is not damaged by more than her share, a bright voice in a world trapped too long in black and white, now transfigured by language.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2007

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