Download the .mp3 file



by Natasha Trethewey

What's left is footage: the hours before
            Camille, 1969—hurricane
                        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 TrethewayAbout the Poet:

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.

About this Poem:

"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.

"Providence," from Native Guard © 2006 by Natasha Trethewey, used by permission of the author and Houghton Mifflin Company.