never knew I was a slave

never understood what color meant

all I knew was I played with master matthew’s chillum

and his kinfolk chillum         from sun up to sundown

mistress Ellen                        master Charlie’s wife           she send Solomon to my mama

while mama fixing the cornmeal mash

and dumping in scraps from the big house

Solomon say Timbe   ole massa wants the gal fetched up to the manor

lil miss Gloria wants her play-date

so hurry piggy along with that mash

Timbe ain’t that troth empty yet cause          I got a mornings worth of beatings to give

always niggers to be chastised round here

niggers don’t know a good thing till I slap they back to remind them

that’s when mama come pull me way from the troth

go play she say and don’t go to getting

massa Charlie’s chillun in no trouble either                        you hear gal now get

fore Solomon light fire

to yo sit down spot      Nima she say go on with Solomon

that’s how it was day in and day out

I was to keep mistress Ellen’s daughter Gloria quiet

so, mistress, Ellen can enjoy her chocolates

that massa Charlie have sent to her from France

and she’d line the walls with boxes of chocolates and looked like more and more were coming everyday waiting to be stacked and eaten

mistress Ellen sit by the window of the big house justa licking her fingers clean

looking out over the fields of niggers working moaning singing

getting beat and dropping dead on their feet                     like Asetewa the first

a wise old pure African woman who was everybody’s teacher

when it came to remembering what it was like to be left alone

without a massa Charlie or mistress Ellen, she was where you went to listen

but when Asetewa the first died

nobody remembered how to tell our story how to fill in the gaps

time mistress Ellen see Solomon dragging me forth

she swing open the window to yell down

Solomon fetch that pickaninny here quicker           hey boy

Gloria is restless and that nigger gal Malindy’s breast done plum give out

she needs to play till another nurse can come to feed

hurry with that gal

got to get miss Gloria’s mind off her hunger pains

move it boy fore I tear into yo ass myself

and you know missy Ellen is more than capable

I know my way round a whip hey Solomon

we all knew mistress Ellen was worse on niggers than any overseer or driver

one time a nigger nurse pleaded with miss Ellen to let her

save some milk for her own baby

who was sick and hot all over

getting thin nough you could see his bones  starring back at you through its skin

that gal got down on her knees begging mistress Ellen

just a little time for my own baby

so he could have a chance to live

truth be told Gloria is as plump as a piggy herself but

they taken to calling me piggy

any which way missy Ellen laugh and spit in the gal’s face

then she reach for her bible and slap the gal till she fall over

crying and begging for mercy in the dear Lawds name

and miss Ellen reach down and she look that gal straight in the eye

then she say the god of this bible ain’t on call to no niggers

so don’t throw god in my face

you heathen you don’t know god

and god don’t want nothing to do with you

god is white and he love the south and the work we doing

god want you to believe in the cross

just don’t touch it with your dirty black hands

niggers ain’t in the bible cause niggers is the kind of sin

you whip till it goes back into the earth

got to slither away      got to die in them fields for redemption

you want to feed that boy of yours’n then feed him

that’s when she squeal for Solomon and the biggest knife he can muster

a sharp knife and her chopping board

she keep squealing  Solomon            Solomon

and he come running and then she have him hall that gal into the

dining space put her breast on that chopping board                    just one Solomon

she screams as Solomon holds the gal in place

then the knife come down  and that one breast that no longer

belongs to the nurse gal is held high above us all

and miss Ellen go over to her favorite window she swings it open

and screams niggers breasts belong to me

not to their chillum and not to the pickaninnys what walk around with them attached

the nurse gal’s cries were so scary

I ran and hid but kept an eye on missy Ellen

who laughed and told Solomon to hold that gal up

then she forced the nurse gal to look at her

missy Ellen held her face toward the nurse gal’s  eyes

now take this and give it to yo boy

but the other one that still is on you that breast is Gloria’s and hers alone

then she tell Solomon to take the gal to one of

them African healing women to be dealt with

she left me with the job of cleaning up the blood

before it stained her house

and what you know she went right on back to her chocolates

then she turn to me make sure piggy

you keep Gloria quiet

cause your mistress is awfully tired

do a good job and there may be a biscuit in it for you

but if that gal of mine so much as coos too loud

and the noise of it hits my ears

your ass is ole enough to feel the whip

and then I might just let my nephew have his way with you

you nine and he twelve

time he work off some steam

then she laugh and reach for a damp cloth

to cool her throat

now go gal and hush my chile far away from me

that’s the time I knows it I knows it

I was a slave and the fun I thought was fun

was work it was my field and nobody

cared if I was happy

just as long Gloria was tended too

ole piggy was the nigger with the baby mistress

who needed to behave

but seems this time that baby was hungry and nothing

I did would quiet her so missy Ellen came

to beat me with a smile         she took masters belt

and swung at any part of me she could reach

then she send for Jefferson her nephew

he took me to the shed and he treat my body

like it was older than it was

and I never told nobody how I became more than a gal

my belly just started growing

and I was slow to the troth

alla sudden out comes a baby          white as massa’s cotton but with my lips nose and hair

I didn’t love it so I smothered it one night when it wouldn’t stop crying

mama and daddy bury it

without a question

we lie to each other

I say I musta slept on it

mama say the earth will understand

she say since I didn’t plant that baby

it shouldn’t be my charge to tend the crop

god knows what’s best

god knows

mama say

give it to god and we leave it at that