“Domestic Work, 1937” by Natasha Trethewey
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
Domestic Work, 1937
All week she's cleaned someone else's house, stared down her own face in the shine of copper- bottomed pots, polished wood, toilets she'd pull the lid to--that look saying Let's make a change, girl. But Sunday mornings are hers-- church clothes starched and hanging, a record spinning on the console, the whole house dancing. She raises the shades, washes the rooms in light, buckets of water, Octagon soap. Cleanliness is next to godliness ... Windows and doors flung wide, curtains two-stepping forward and back, neck bones bumping in the pot, a choir of clothes clapping on the line. Nearer my God to Thee ... She beats time on the rugs, blows dust from the broom like dandelion spores, each one a wish for something better.
From Domestic Work, 1999
Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minn.
Copyright 1999 by Natasha Trethewey.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota, from Domestic Work. Copyright 1999 by Natasha Trethewey. For further permissions information contact Permissions Department, Graywolf Press, 2402 University Ave., Ste. 203, St Paul, MN 55114, www.graywolfpress.org.
About the Poet
Natasha Trethewey (1966- ) served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2012 to 2014. She is the author of five poetry collections, including Thrall (Houghton Mifflin, 2012). She was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on April 26, 1966.
Learn more about Natasha Trethewey.