Elegy for the Native Guards
By Natasha Trethewey
Now that the salt of their blood
Stiffens the saltier oblivion of the sea...
We leave Gulfport at noon; gulls overhead
trailing the boat—streamers, noisy fanfare—
all the way to Ship Island. What we see
first is the fort, its roof of grass, a lee—
half reminder of the men who lived there—
a weathered monument to some of the dead.
Inside we follow the ranger, hurried
though we are to get to the beach. He tells
of graves lost in the Gulf, the island split
in half when Hurricane Camille hit,
shows us casemates, cannons, the store that sells
souvenirs, tokens of history long buried.
The Daughters of the Confederacy
have placed a plaque here, at the fort's entrance—
each Confederate soldier's name raised hard
in bronze; no names carved for the Native Guards—
2nd regiment, Union men, black phalanx.
What is monument to their legacy?
All the grave markers, all the crude headstones—
water-lost. Now fish dart among their bones,
and we listen for what the waves intone.
Only the fort remains, near forty feet high,
round, unfinished, half-open to the sky,
the elements—wind, rain—God's deliberate eye.
Trethewey, a Pulitzer Prize winner who teaches at Emory, has been named the new Poet Laureate of the United States.
Adam finished his last exam for the school year on Thursday and Paul worked from home, meaning that for a while I had my entire family here for the first day of summer vacation. That didn't last long -- Adam and Maddy (whose mother had a baby this morning) went to her house for the afternoon and Daniel and I took walks, separately, though we both saw the young buck with the fuzzy antlers, several other deer, and a few bunnies.
We watched Deep Space Nine's "Paradise" -- which was better than I had remembered -- then we watched the pilot of Relic Hunter, a show Daniel does not remember and I haven't seen since it first aired, on which Tia Carrere remains enormous fun despite special effects so cheesy it makes Sanctuary look like Avatar. Here are some photos from the joust at the Virginia Renaissance Faire a few weekends ago: