Reach: A Poem by Natasha Trethewey

From Her New Collection Monument: Poems New and Selected.

November 6, 2018  By Natasha Trethewey


Right off I hear him singing, the strings
of his old guitar hemming the darkness
as before—late nights on the front porch—
the mountains across the valley blurred
to outline. We are at it again, father
and daughter, deep in our cups, rehearsing
the long years between us. In the distance
I hear the foghorn call of bullfrogs,
envoys from the river of lamentation
my father is determined to cross. Already
I know where this is headed: how many times
has the night turned toward regret? My father
saying, If only I’d been a better husband
she’d be alive today, saying, Gwen and I
would get back together if she were alive.
It’s the same old song. He is Orpheus
trying to bring her back with the music
of his words, lines of a poem drifting now
into my dream. Picking the first chords,
my father leans into the neck of the guitar,
rolls his shoulders until he’s lost in it—
the song carrying him across the porch
and down into the damp grass. Even asleep,
I know where he is going. I cannot call
him back. Through the valley the blacktop
winds like a river, and he is stepping into it,
walking now toward the other side where
she waits, my mother, just out of reach.


From Monument: Poems New and SelectedCourtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Copyright © 2018 by Natasha Trethewey. 

Natasha Trethewey
Natasha Trethewey
Natasha Trethewey is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 2012 and again in 2014. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is a former Poet Laureate of Mississippi. She is the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University.

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