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History Lesson by Natasha Tretheway

History Lesson

by Natasha Tretheway

published in Domestic Work (2000, Graywolf Press)

I am four in this photograph, standing

on a wide strip of Mississippi beach,

my hands on the flowered hips


of a bright bikini. My toes dig in,

curl around wet sand. The sun cuts

the rippling Gulf in flashes with each


tidal rush. Minnows dart at my feet

glinting like switchblades. I am alone

except for my grandmother, other side


of the camera, telling me how to pose.

It is 1970, two years after they opened

the rest of this beach to us,


forty years since the photograph

where she stood on a narrow plot

of sand marked colored, smiling,

her hands on the flowered hips

of a cotton meal-sack dress.




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