The song of the slave rings out
On the ships moving to the Americas;
In the slave house where the men are worked to death,
The women raped,
The children sold like cattle to men who will
Work the men to death,
Rape the women,
Use the children
When they grow,
If they grow.
The song of the slave sweating in the fields,
Bowing in the master’s house,
Begging for the slop the mistress tosses on his floor.
Still the slave sings.
Why? I cannot tell you
He sings to God, he sings to the void,
He sings to the piece of his soul never chained
Even if he cannot articulate the soul.
He only wants to breathe free
The way you breathe free,
The way I breathe free.
Maybe not free but freer. Much freer.
He wants to read. He wants to read poetry in the moonlight.
He wants his woman to be his. He wants his children sleeping soundly
Without the cut of the lash in the back of the mind
Or the center of the back.
He wants the way that you want, I want.
Can you not see that?
He wants to drink beer and speak his mind in public.
He wants to come home at night after working a job he is free to quit
As long as he finds another
And find a home he paid for or built with his own hands.
His home. His property. Something for him to own.
The song of the slave
Resounding through the empty fields,
The fetid alleys, the crowded streets,
The houses filled or abandoned.
The song of the slave now freed
And the song of his children:
They rise together and you must sing with them.
We must marry their sorrow to freedom,
Singing together, together,
All one great free tragic beautiful voice
Drenched in tears, brightened by enlightenment,
Exalted in our solidarity.
John Tustin's poetry has appeared in many literary magazines, online journals and blogazines over the last several years. He is currently suffering in exile on Elba. His published poetry is available HERE