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.