What's left is footage: the hours before
parties, palm trees leaning
in the wind,
fronds blown back,
a woman's hair. Then after:
the vacant lots,
boats washed ashore, a swamp
where graves had been. I recall
how we huddled all night in our small house,
moving between rooms,
emptying pots filled with rain.
The next day, our house—
on its cinderblocks—seemed to float
in the flooded yard: no foundation
beneath us, nothing I could see
tying us to the land.
In the water, our reflection
when I bent to touch it.
Natasha Trethewey is the current U.S. Poet Laureate. She is the author of four books of poetry and a work of creative nonfiction. Her book Native Guard (2006) won the Pulitzer Prize. Trethewey was the 2010-11 Poet-in-Residence at Bucknell University.
"Providence" commemorates Hurricane Camille, a devastating storm that resulted in hundreds of deaths in the author's native Mississippi. Trethewey's poem, like all elegies, asks us to consider the precarious and precious nature of life.