Three Poems

Ashes (David Blount)

The days on the plantation was the happy days

We didn’t mind the work so much     because the ground was soft as ashes


hot / Days we would all stop work about

Three in the evening     and go swimming in the river


one time there / I

done forgot the year

some white men came     / Down the river in a boat / They come


Into the fields and talks to us

They says our master isn’t treating us

right and they says / We ought to be

paid for our work


I laughs at them but some

Fool niggers listen


it appears these men / Give them some guns

after I left and them / Fool niggers listen     hold

a meeting the next day     in the pack house


So I is lying

Up in the loft and I

Hear them say     they going up to the big house

And kill the whole family

I go


Out the window tell the master me / And him

run out to the pack house     and quick as lightning


I slam the door shut / The master

locks them niggers in


And then the master     yells he yells I’se got

Men and guns out here

throw your guns out

the hole up there in the loft     I know


How many guns they got

I count ’em as they throw ’em out


Well     the master keeps them shut

up for about a week     / On short rations


and at / The end of that

Time he says     Dave he says to me     I reckon them


niggers am cured for good

And burns the pack house down



Egg (Andrew Boone)


They sold slaves just like people sell / Horses now

they would strip them naked

a     / Nigger scarred up or whaled and welted up

he was / Considered a bad nigger

and didn’t bring much


I saw a lot of slaves

Whipped and I was whipped myself

They whipped us with a cobbin paddle

it had 40 holes


They buckled us to barrels whipped us

naked with the paddle

everywhere / There was a hole

It drew a blister


After the whipping with the paddle was over

they took / A cat-o’-nine-tails

and busted the blisters


The next thing was a bath

in salt / Water strong enough

to float an egg


my     / Master he checked it

the water himself


Patted the egg

dry with a handkerchief


Clean (Mary A. Bell)


My father’s name was Spot and he was owned

By Mr. Lewis had a mean old

nigger overseer


Who often beat him bloody I

so often think of the hard times / My parents had

In their slave days more often

than I feel my own hard times


My father on     Wednesdays and Saturdays

Those were the only days / He was allowed to visit visited


My mother and he often came / In bloody clothes


From beatings and my mother she

would peel those bloody clothes / Off him


my mother she would bathe his sore

places and grease them good

And wash and iron the clothes so he could go     back clean


* * *


After a bad one one

Wednesday he came home bloody said he wasn’t going back

Didn’t deserve that beating and he wasn’t going back

And mother     begged him not to but he ran away


Hid under houses and in the woods

Three days and he could see the riders hunting him


And after three days weak and hungry gave himself     / Up to a nigger

Trader he knew

And begged the nigger trader to


buy him from Mr. Lewis Mr. Lewis was so cruel

But Mr. Lewis wouldn’t sell him would have been

A ruined man     / My


father managed all / The other slaves

like no one not     even that nigger overseer could


He was the head

man over there


—Shane McCrae, Iowa City, IA