Monument

Natasha Trethewey

Today the ants are busy
beside my front steps, weaving
in and out of the hill they’re building.
I watch them emerge and—

like everything I’ve forgotten—disappear
into the subterranean, a world
made by displacement. In the cemetery
last June, I circled, lost—

weeds and grass grown up all around—
the landscape blurred and waving.
At my mother’s grave, ants streamed in
and out like arteries, a tiny hill rising

above her untended plot. Bit by bit,
red dirt piled up, spread
like a rash on the grass; I watched a long time
the ants’ determined work,

how they brought up soil
of which she will be part,
and placed it before me. Believe me when I say
I’ve tried not to begrudge them

their industry, this reminder of what
I haven’t done. Even now,
the mound is a blister on my heart,
a red and humming swarm.
© 2007 University of North Carolina Greensboro
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NATASHA TRETHEWEY is author of Bellocq’s Ophelia (Graywolf, 2002) and Domestic Work (Graywolf, 2000). Her third collection, Native Guard, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin in 2006. She is Associate Professor of English at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.