A Florida Slave
I understand 'bout black folk’s fears
I was a slave for fourteen years.
I was a captive and I was beat,
I dug their taters out in the heat.
I chopped their cane, I hoed their rows,
I took their pain, I took their blows.
I ate molasses and old cornbread,
I was thankful just to be fed.
I've said, “Yes sir boss. What can I do?”
“Moving on down” a time or two.
I've been starved damn near to death,
Prayed to God for my last breath.
I've dug their ditches, mowed their grass,
Learned in solitude to make time pass.
I've ate their carrots and their peas,
But I never once bent my knees.
I took their best, their longest, their worst,
I was their boy, the one they cursed.
I was at their beck and call,
“Go do this,” I still stood tall.
“Water boy, please bring a drink,
“No sir Boss, I can't think.”
“I'm hurrying Boss, as fast as I can.”
“That's too heavy, I'm just one man.”
“No sir Boss, I won't talk back.”
“Just picking up trash to fill my sack.”
“Look out snake! Did he bite?”
“If the snake ain't dead the boy's alright.
These days are gone now from my sight,
But I still see them late at night.
So long ago, yet still so real,
So lost in time but I still feel.
A painful blow draws first blood,
An eerie sound, an awful thud.
Was that ten or twenty licks?
Will I die? Can I be fixed?
It hurts so bad. What did I do?
My mind's a blank, I beg of you!
Please don't hit me any more,
I can't think of what it's for.
I don't know. Am I to blame?
I thought it was just a game.
I taste the blood, the salty brine,
Is that me I hear crying?
What about my sweaty brow?
I hold on, I don't know how.
The tears run silent as I weep,
From my soul is where they seep,
I bite down, it smells so bad,
I feel the grief, the pain, the sad.
I sense the anguish and dismay,
Of those who passed this awful way.
Their blood, tears, their sweat I see,
On the walls surrounding me!
I hear their cries, oh help me please,
I'm begging you, I'm on my knees!
We little boys cried loud in pain,
But no one cared, nobody came.