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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