Camera Obscura

Natasha Trethewey

Suppose it happened like this:
you are outside, like the woman

in this photograph nearly a century
before you, bent over a washtub,

scrubbing the week’s remains out of clothing,
the stains from work, the soiled bed linens,

worn undergarments—your life spread out,
homely and domestic, in the yard.

And suppose you’d closed your eyes
for a moment—thinking of the small hurt

you swallow over and over, each year
the skin of your throat looser, your gut

softer where you keep putting it—
when someone comes up to you,

wants to take your picture. Would you say
Yes, like she must have? Let him capture the scene,

the way you look, your eyes opening again
to the light, looking out at the world you’ve just

awakened to, a stranger turning his lens toward a face,
a moment, that later you’ll not want to remember?
© 2007 University of North Carolina Greensboro
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NATASHA TRETHEWEY is assistant professor of English at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Domestic Work (Graywolf, 2000) won the 2001 Lillian Smith Book Award. Her newest collection is Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf, 2002).