Natasha Trethewey's "Native Guard" tells dark stories through beautiful poetry.
The title poem tells the story of a black soldier during the Civil War. His battalion - one of the first to include black Americans - was charged with guarding white Confederate prisoners. These were men who previously owned or would have owned black men.
"We know it is our duty now to keep
white men as prisoners - rebel soldiers,
would-be masters. We're all bondsmen here, each
to the other. Freedom has gotten them
captivity. For us a conscription
we have chosen - jailors to those who still
would have us as slaves. They are cautious, dreading
the sight of us."
Trethewey includes other poems about the history of the South, which she views with mixed emotions. She grew up in Mississippi and Atlanta, but her family was ostracized because her parents were of different races.
She includes poems about her own family - in particular about the death of her mother, who was murdered by her second husband when Natasha was a teenager.
The collection is a chronicle of what it is like to be black in the American South. Despite being a white man in Chicago, every poem resonated with me.