Natasha Trethewey, 1966 Vicksburg, MississippiHere, the Mississippi carvedits mud-dark path, a graveyardfor skeletons of sunken riverboats.Here, the river changed its course,turning away from the cityas one turns, forgetting, from the past—the abandoned bluffs, land sloping upabove the river’s bend—where nowthe Yazoo fills the Mississippi’s empty bed.Here, the dead stand up in stone, whitemarble, on Confederate Avenue. I standon ground once hollowed by a web of caves;they must have seemed like catacombs,in 1863, to the woman sitting in her parlor,candlelit, underground. I can see herlistening to shells explode, writing herselfinto history, asking what is to becomeof all the living things in this place?This whole city is a grave. Every spring—Pilgrimage—the living come to minglewith the dead, brush against their cold shouldersin the long hallways, listen all nightto their silence and indifference, relivetheir dying on the green battlefield.At the museum, we marvel at their clothes—preserved under glass—so much smallerthan our own, as if those who wore themwere only children. We sleep in their beds,the old mansions hunkered on the bluffs, drapedin flowers—funereal—a blurof petals against the river’s gray.The brochure in my room calls thisliving history. The brass plate on the door readsPrissy’s Room. A window framesthe river’s crawl toward the Gulf. In my dream,the ghost of history lies down beside me,rolls over, pins me beneath a heavy arm.