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,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:
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.”
“Where the roads, buildings, and monumentsThroughout these poems, many of which speak directly to a particular history, Trethewey’s language is clear and precise, images springing from the past:
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.”
“Before the war, they were happy, he said,
“Native Guard” addresses the Civil War, month by month, from 1862-64, etching into time what should not be forgotten:
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.”
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.
“And are we not the same,
slaves in the hands of the master, destiny?
“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.”
Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2007