Theories of Time and Space

Natasha Trethewey


Trethewey was born in Mississippi in1968. She was the United States Poet Laureate in 2012 and 2013. Her first collection "Domestic Work" won a Cave Canem Prize for a first book by an African American poet.  It explores the lives of working class people, particularly black men and women in the South.

This remarkable poem, Theories of Time and Space illustrate why she was made Poet Laureate,  it takes specifics - the look and feel of the Gulf, and imbues them with powerful personal messages. Note the last two lines -  the photograph, who you were (but no longer are) will be waiting on your return.   
You can get there from here,though there’s no going home.

Everywhere you go will be somewhere you’ve never been.  Try this:

head south on Mississippi 49, one-by-one mile markers ticking off

another minute of your life.  Follow this to its natural conclusion – dead end

at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches

in a sky threatening rain.  Cross over 
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand

dumped on a mangrove swamp -  buried terrain of the past.  Bring only

what you must carry  - tome of memory,its random blank pages.  On the dock

where you board the boat for Ship Island, someone will take your picture:

 the photograph  - who you were  -will be waiting when you return.

copyright by Natasha Trethewey