Southern Pastoral

Natasha Trethewey

In the dream, I am with the Fugitive
Poets. We’re gathered for a photograph.
Behind us, the skyline of Atlanta
hidden by the photographer’s backdrop—
a lush pasture, green, full of soft-eyed cows
lowing, a chant that sounds like no, no. Yes,
I say to the glass of bourbon I’m offered.
We’re lining up now—Robert Penn Warren,
his voice just audible above the drone
of bulldozers, telling us where to stand.
Say “Race,” the photographer croons. I’m in
blackface again when the flash freezes us.
My father’s white, I tell them, and rural.
You don’t hate the South, they ask. You don’t hate it?
© 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).