Journeys with Natasha Trethewey

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been.

I sometimes read poetry, but not as often as I probably should.

I once had a professor that, in their parting words, recommended that we try and find 30 or poems and memorize them to heart. Practice them, recite them. Listen to how the language builds upon or destroys itself.

Unfortunately, I haven’t done that.

But some poems that have stuck with me have come from Natash Tretheway’s Pulitzer winning Native Guard. The odd, random lines have popped up more and more lately, like choruses from the radio, pulling me back to the memory of exploring these poems and the journeys Tretheway and the Native Guard took. Journeys into the past of her mother, of the Native guard, of her own, over land, through time, and pain. It’s important book, not only in the anthology of American poetry, but in understanding the history of America and its irreparable grip on the present.

Here is the poem in full:

Theories of Time and Space

You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one—
by—one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only

what you must carry—tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:

the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return

 

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