J. Drew Lanham

Because of Black Hands

Because of Black hands

Chained to fickle marsh tide and white planter’s rice

that ditched dug drained and plugged

this wild Bear Island place

Slaves bound to hell heat

swatting blood-letting deer fly bite

sweat draining

drip- drip-drip-dripping

into mile-long–man-deep-canal

Sing then suffer as whip’s crack splits blood-stained back

mule brays and tired man prays for better days

“Shoulder yo’ pick quick


“Push hard dat shobel


“Make Massah rich or shame de debil!”


Here in this wild Bear Island Place

where swan moan hangs on rising dawn

where eagle cry cleaves cloud- clotted sky

where flint head stork stands somber and tall



Souls at last soar free—

unfettered on wings

on feathers

Free over water stained to color of tea


of Black Hands

Bound now long gone

Hands of pluff mud’s hue that belonged to Black faces

Black hands and Black faces who looked

But now


like me

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