Skip to content
FREE SHIPPING ON ALL DOMESTIC ORDERS $35+
FREE SHIPPING ON ALL US ORDERS $35+

Thrall

Availability:
in stock, ready to be shipped
Original price $15.99 - Original price $15.99
Original price $15.99
$16.99
$16.99 - $16.99
Current price $16.99
The stunning follow-up volume to Natasha Trethewey's Pulitzer Prize–winning Native Guard, by the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States.

Natasha Trethewey’s poems are at once deeply personal and historical—exploring her own interracial and complicated roots—and utterly American, connecting them to ours. The daughter of a black mother and white father, a student of history and of the Deep South, she is inspired by everything from colonial paintings of mulattos and mestizos to the stories of people forgotten by history.

Meditations on captivity, knowledge, and inheritance permeate Thrall, as she reflects on a series of small estrangements from her poet father and comes to an understanding of how, as father and daughter, they are part of the ongoing history of race in America.

Thrall confirms not only that Natasha Trethewey is one of our most gifted and necessary poets but that she is also one of our most brilliant and fearless.

ISBN-13: 9780544586208

Media Type: Paperback(Reissue)

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication Date: 09-22-2015

Pages: 96

Product Dimensions: 7.80(w) x 5.30(h) x 0.40(d)

NATASHA TRETHEWEY, two-term U.S. Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and 2017 Heinz Award recipient, has written five collections of poetry and one book of nonfiction. An American Academy of Arts and Sciences fellow, she is currently Board of Trustees professor of English at Northwestern University. She lives in Evanston, Illinois.

Read an Excerpt

Elegy
For my father

I think by now the river must be thick
with salmon. Late August, I imagine it

as it was that morning: drizzle needling
the surface, mist at the banks like a net

settling around us—everything damp
and shining. That morning, awkward

and heavy in our hip waders, we stalked
into the current and found our places—

you upstream a few yards and out
far deeper. You must remember how

the river seeped in over your boots
and you grew heavier with that defeat.

All day I kept turning to watch you, how
first you mimed our guide’s casting

then cast your invisible line, slicing the sky
between us; and later, rod in hand, how

you tried—again and again—to find
that perfect arc, flight of an insect

skimming the river’s surface. Perhaps
you recall I cast my line and reeled in

two small trout we could not keep.
Because I had to release them, I confess,

I thought about the past—working
the hooks loose, the fish writhing

in my hands, each one slipping away
before I could let go. I can tell you now

that I tried to take it all in, record it
for an elegy I’d write—one day—

when the time came. Your daughter,
I was that ruthless. What does it matter

if I tell you I learned to be? You kept casting
your line, and when it did not come back

empty, it was tangled with mine. Some nights,
dreaming, I step again into the small boat

that carried us out and watch the bank receding—
my back to where I know we are headed.

Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus;
or, The Mulata

After the painting by Diego Velàzquez, c. 1619
She is the vessels on the table before her:
the copper pot tipped toward us, the white pitcher
clutched in her hand, the black one edged in red
and upside down. Bent over, she is the mortar
and the pestle at rest in the mortar—still angled
in its posture of use. She is the stack of bowls
and the bulb of garlic beside it, the basket hung
by a nail on the wall and the white cloth bundled
in it, the rag in the foreground recalling her hand.
She’s the stain on the wall the size of her shadow—
the color of blood, the shape of a thumb. She is echo
of Jesus at table, framed in the scene behind her:
his white corona, her white cap. Listening, she leans
into what she knows. Light falls on half her face.

Mano Prieta

The green drapery is like a sheet of water
behind us—a cascade in the backdrop
of the photograph, a rushing current

that would scatter us, carry us each
away. This is 1969 and I am three—
still light enough to be nearly the color

of my father. His armchair is a throne
and I am leaning into him, propped
against his knees—his hand draped

across my shoulder. On the chair’s arm
my mother looms above me,
perched at the edge as though

she would fall off. The camera records
her single gesture. Perhaps to still me,
she presses my arm with a forefinger,

makes visible a hypothesis of blood,
its empire of words: the imprint
on my body of her lovely dark hand.

Mythology

1. NOSTOS
Here is the dark night
of childhood—flickering

lamplight, odd shadows
on the walls—giant and flame

projected through the clear
frame of my father’s voice.

Here is the past come back
as metaphor: my father, as if

to ease me into sleep, reciting
the trials of Odysseus. Always

he begins with the Cyclops,
light at the cave’s mouth

bright as knowledge, the pilgrim
honing a pencil-sharp stake.

2. QUESTIONS POSED BY THE DREAM
It’s the old place on Jefferson Street
I’ve entered, a girl again, the house dark
and everyone sleeping—so quiet it seems

I’m alone. What can this mean now, more
than thirty years gone, to find myself
at the beginning of that long hallway

knowing, as I did then, what stands
at the other end? And why does the past
come back like this: looming, a human figure

formed—as if it had risen from the Gulf
—of the crushed shells that paved
our driveway, a sharp-edged creature

that could be conjured only by longing?
Why is it here blocking the dark passage
to my father’s bookshelves, his many books?

3. SIREN
In this dream I am driving
a car, strapped to my seat

like Odysseus to the mast,
my father calling to me

from the back—luring me
to a past that never was. This

is the treachery of nostalgia.
This is the moment before

a ship could crash onto the rocks,
the car’s back wheels tip over

a cliff. Steering, I must be
the crew, my ears deaf

to the sound of my father’s voice;
I must be the captive listener

cleaving to his words. I must be
singing this song to myself.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Utterly elegant." —Elle Magazine

Table of Contents

Elegy 3

Miracle of the Black Leg 9
On Captivity 13
Taxonomy 16
1. DE ESPAÑOL Y DE INDIA PRODUCE MESTIZO 16
2. DE ESPAÑOL Y NEGRA PRODUCE MULATO 19
3. DE ESPAÑOL Y MESTIZA PRODUCE CASTIZA 22
4. THE BOOK OF CASTAS 24
Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus; or, The Mulata 27
Knowledge 28

The Americans 33
1. DR. SAMUEL ADOLPHUS CARTWRIGHT ON
DISSECTING THE WHITE NEGRO, 1851 33
2. BLOOD 34
3. HELP, 1968 35
Mano Prieta 37
De Español y Negra; Mulata 39
Mythology 41
1. NOSTOS 41
2. QUESTIONS POSED BY THE DREAM 42
3. SIREN 43
Geography 45
Torna Atrás 48
Bird in the House 50
Artifact 52
Fouled 54
Rotation 55

Thrall 59
Calling 66
Enlightenment 68
How the Past Comes Back 72
On Happiness 74
Vespertina Cognitio 75
Illumination 76

Notes 81
Acknowledgments 83