Natasha Trethewey

2. Glyph, Aberdeen, 1913

The child’s head droops as if in sleep.
Stripped to the waist, in profile, he’s balanced 
on the man’s lap. The man, gaunt in his overalls, 
cradles the child’s thin arm—the sharp elbow, white 
signature of skin and bone. He pulls it forward 
to show the deformity—the humped back, curve 
of spine—punctuating the routine hardships 
of their lives: how the child must follow him 
into the fields, haunting the long hours 
slumped beside a sack, his body asking 
how much cotton? or in the kitchen, leaning 
into the icebox, how much food? or 
kneeling beside him at the church house, 
why, Lord, why? They pose as if to say
Look, this is the outline of suffering: 
the child shouldering it—a mound 
like dirt heaped on a grave.