Claudia Putnam's Reviews > Native Guard

Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: poetry

Trethewey's tremendous strength is her merging of the lyric and the narrative such that work feels perfectly balanced and seamless.

Why the rough edge of beauty? she asks, in Photograph: Ice Storm, 1971.

...Why remember anything
but the wonder of those few days,

the iced trees, each in its leafy case?
The picture we took that first morning,
the front yard a beautiful, strange place--

why on the back has someone made a list
of our names, the date, the event: nothing
of what's inside--mother, stepfather's fist?

The rough edge, contained though it may be within a beautifully structured, taut poem, catches you out at the end. Trethewey is obsessed with history, particularly buried history. So, some of the poems are about her grief over her mother, who died at the hands of an abusive man, and others are about another kind of grief, the kind that accumulates when stories, such as those about a battalion of black Union soldiers, are forgotten.

For instance:

What is Evidence

Not the fleeting bruises she's cover
with makeup, a dark patch as if imprint
of a scope she'd pressed her eye too close to,
looking for a way out, nor the quiver
in the voice she'd sheady, leaning
into a pot of bones on the stove. Not
the teeth she wore in place of her own, or
the official document--its seal
and smeared signature--fading already,
the edges wearing. Not the tiny marker
with its dates, her name, abstract as history.
Only the landscape of her body--splintered
clavicle, pierced temporal--her thin bones
settling a bit each day, the way all things do.

From Native Guard:


There are things which must be accounted for:
slaughter under the white flag of surrender--
black massacre at Fort Pillow; our new name,
the Corps d'Afrique--words that take the *native*
from our claim; mossbacks and freedmen--exiles
in their own homeland; the diseased, the maimed,
every lost limb and what remains: phantom
ache, memory haunting an empty sleeve;
the hog-eaten at Gettysburg, unmarked
in their graves; all the dead letters, unanswered;
untold stories of those that time will render
mute. Beneath battlefields, green again,
the dead molder--a scaffolding of bone
we tread upon, forgetting. Truth be told.

3 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Native Guard.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

January 9, 2015 – Started Reading
January 9, 2015 – Shelved
January 15, 2015 – Shelved as: poetry
January 15, 2015 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.