five poems / five days #8

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Natasha Trethewey

After Your Death

First, I emptied the closets of your clothes,
threw out the bowl of fruit, bruised
from your touch, left empty the jars

you bought for preserves. The next morning,
birds rustled the fruit trees, and later
when I twisted a ripe fig loose from its stem,

I found it half eaten, the other side
already rotting, or – like another I plucked
and split open – being taken from the inside:

a swarm of insects hollowing it. I’m too late,
again, another space emptied by loss.
Tomorrow, the bowl I have yet to fill.


This is a strong work from Trethewey’s new collection, Native Guard. She establishes a potent mood with a delicate image – “birds rustled the fruit trees”. Then she intensifies this view, twisting “a ripe fig loose from its stem” - before, finally revealing a hidden agenda, the fruit, “being taken from the inside”. Powerful use of the senses. The final line is perfect in stripping away all security, leaving only the truth of regret.

A lyrical piece, written by a poet who is relentless in showing, layer by layer, what is missing. What is not there again – Trethewey reminds us. The poem is structured, brilliantly, to force the reader into self-reflection. And it works.


Collin said...

She's brilliant.

sam of the ten thousand things said...


LKD said...

I read it through and expected it to be credited to Kenyon.

In fact, I was so certain that it was Kenyon's that I'm still trying to rewind and wrap my brain around the fact that it's not.

Thank you for posting this poem, Sam. I'll have to seek out Trethewey's work.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

The poem is, in its own way, very Kenyon-like, Laurel. I can see that. You should read Native Guard if you haven't.