Natasha Trethewey

December 1862

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

For the slave, having a master sharpens
the bend into work, the way the sergeant
moves us now to perfect battalion drill,
dress parade. Still, we’re called supply units—
not infantry—and so we dig trenches,
haul burdens for the army no less heavy
than before. I heard the colonel call it
nigger work. Half rations make our work
familiar still. We take those things we need
from the Confederates’ abandoned homes:
salt, sugar, even this journal, near full
with someone else’s words, overlapped now,
crosshatched beneath mine. On every page,
his story intersecting with my own.