Natasha Trethewey

4. Signs, Oakvale, Mississippi, 1941

The first time she leaves home is with a man.
On Highway49, heading north, she watches
the pine woods roll by, and counts on one hand
dead possum along the road, crows in splotches
of light — she knows to watch the signs for luck.
He has a fine car, she thinks. And money green
enough to buy a dream — more than she could tuck
under the mattress, in a Bible, or fold between
her powdered breasts. He’d promised land to farm
back home, new dresses, a house where she’d be
queen. (Was the gap in his teeth cause for alarm?)
The cards said go. She could roam the Delta, see
things she’d never seen. Outside her window,
nothing but cotton and road signs — stop or slow.