Natasha Trethewey

4. You Are Late

The sun is high and the child’s shadow,
almost fully beneath her, touches the sole
of her bare foot on concrete. Even though
it must be hot, she’s takes the step; her goal

to read is the subject of this shot—a book
in her hand, the library closed, the door
just out of reach. Stepping up, she must look
at the two signs, read them slowly once more.

The first one, in pale letters, barely shows 
against the white background. Though she will read
Greenwood Public Library for Negroes,
the other, bold letters on slate, will lead

her away, out of the frame, a finger
pointing left. I want to call her, say wait.
But this is history: she can’t linger.
She reads the sign that I read: You are Late.