While growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Natasha Trethewey was able to give an intimate description of the working class in Mississippi in her first work entitled Domestic Work. She gives vivid accounts of her family, before and after she was born. Trethewey was very specific in the way she described the region on the Gulf, as well as the characters she describes. After publishing Domestic Work (2000), Tretehewy won the Cave Canem Prize for a first book by an African American poet
In one of Trethewey’s poems entitled, “Early Evening, Frankfort, Kentucky,” Trethewey describes the simple life of her deeply in love parents prior to her birth. In one part she says:
“They are young and full of laughter/ the sounds in my mother’s throat/ rippling down into my blood/ My mother, who will not reach/ forty-one, steps into the middle…”
Read more of “Early Evening, Frankfort, Kentucky”
In “Family Portrait”, Natasha Trethewey leads the reader into her family’s past. In this sonnet, she vividly describes this picture day with a glimmer of the theme absence.
“Mama and I spend the morning / cleaning the family room. She hums / Motown, doles out chores, a warning — / / He has no legs, she says, don’t stare.”
She ends the poem with the line,
“as––years later–I’d itch for what’s not there.”
This ending most likely eludes to Trethewey’s mother dying by the age of forty-one, therefore no more family portraits.
Read more of “Family Portrait” by purchasing Domestic Work.