106: Duty by Natasha Trethewey


When he tells the story now

he’s at the center of it,

 

everyone else in the house

falling into the backdrop—

 

my mother, grandmother,

an uncle, all dead now—props

 

in our story: father and daughter

caught in memory’s half-light.

 

I’m too young to recall it,

so his story becomes the story:

 

1969, Hurricane Camille

bearing down, the old house

 

shuddering as if it will collapse.

Rain pours into every room

 

and he has to keep moving,

keep me out of harm’s way—

 

a father’s first duty: to protect.

And so, in the story, he does:

 

I am small in his arms, perhaps

even sleeping. Water is rising

 

around us and there is no

higher place he can take me

 

than this, memory forged

in the storm’s eye: a girl

 

clinging to her father. What

can I do but this? Let him

 

tell it again and again as if

it’s always been only us,

 

and that, when it mattered,

he was the one who saved me.

 

 

This poem can be found in the volume, Monument: Poems New and Selected.

Think about how the poem made you feel. Do you ever consider that in others’ lives, you are merely a character, and they, the hero? Is it troubling that others’ perceptions of you may be so very incomplete?

May you live out another beautiful poem in the collection of your life today, and we’ll see you again tomorrow.

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