For B.C. (who has clearly never seen Amistad)

The naked man lay on his back

And murmured to his neighbor,

“I thank my gods these men stole me

To sell me for my labor.

 

I was so lucky to be nabbed—

So lucky for this trip

For free! To visit foreign lands

Aboard this handsome ship.

 

I’ve never been to sea before—

Is this the way it’s done?

Chained up for three months under decks–

I bet that will be fun!

 

With several hundred other folk—

My fortune never ends!

And with such time at ease I’m sure

To make a lot of friends.

 

There’s food—free food—a little bland,

But free food all the same

And, when I came aboard the ship,

They gave me a new name!

 

And when we reach the other side,

And land, there’s more in store:

They’ll take us to a special place

Where there are folk galore

 

And every one will look at me

Dressed as I was at birth,

And then they’ll argue as they look

just what they think I’m worth.

 

To know that someone values me

So much is really nice.

I’ll stand up straight and tall and show

That I am worth my price.

 

But then—oh wow! another ship!

Will take me to a nation

Which has great need of me to work

Upon a big plantation

 

Where it will be my job to pick

Their endless fields of cotton.

I know that there I’ll work so hard

That I won’t be forgotten,

 

And, though I’m poor and ignorant

And come from cross the ocean,

They’ll smile at me and pat my head

And offer me promotion

 

So I will have a whip like theirs

To put heart in the shirkers

And then, who knows? One day I may

Be chief among their workers!

 

So you can see I have big dreams—

And some day they’ll come true.

I may be just an immigrant,

But I’m as good as you

 

Or any other black man who,

Now, living on the edge

Of Africa, if, caught like me

Can have the privilege

 

Of coming to America

To work for free for others

Who’ll keep me safe and treat me as

A man among his brothers.”

 

But, then the naked man lay still

and stared—“What’s wrong?” he cried.

The other man, with whom he shared

His dreams, had gasped and died.

 

And then two sailors came along

Who saw the corpse. One said,

“It might be plague or pox or worse

And what if it should spread?”

 

They clicked the lock that bound him down

“Best take the other one.”

And so the naked man was freed

And wondered what he’d done,

 

But had no time to think or plead—

He’d only been ignored

As cargo–when the sailors hiked

And heaved him overboard.

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