Natasha Trethewey

January 1863

If this war is to be forgotten, I ask in the name of all
things sacred what shall men remember?
              —Frederick Douglass

O how history intersects — my own
berth upon a ship called the Northern Star
and I’m delivered into a new life,
Fort Massachusetts: a great irony —
both path and destination of freedom
I’d not dared to travel. Here, now, I walk
ankle-deep in sand, fly-bitten, nearly
smothered by heat, and yet I can look out
upon the Gulf and see the surf breaking,
tossing the ships, the great gunboats bobbing
on the water. And we are not the same,
slaves in the hands of the master, destiny?
—night sky red with the promise of fortune,
dawn pink as new flesh: healing, unfettered.