Natasha Trethewey

Family Portrait

Before the picture man comes
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.
I’m first to the door when he rings.
My father and uncle lift his chair
onto the porch, arrange his things

near the place his feet would be.
He poses our only portrait—my father
sitting. Mama beside him, and me
in between. I watch him bother

the space for knees, shins, scratching air
as—years later—I’d itch for what’s not there.