Natasha Trethewey




2. Father

February 1911

There is but little I recall of him — how
I feared his visits, though he would bring gifts:
apples, candy, a toothbrush and powder.
In exchange, I must present fingernails
and ears, open my mouth to show the teeth.
Then I’d recite my lessons, my voice low.
I would stumble over a simple word, say
lay for lie, and he would stop me there. How
I wanted him to like me, think me smart,
a delicate colored girl — not the wild
pickaninny roaming the fields, barefoot.
I search now for his face among the men
I pass in the streets, fear the day a man
enters my room both customer and father.