Slave quarters
by Patricia E. Vineski

    _was a mud-faced room
    was the whites of eyes at midnight in straw beds
    looking skyward and I wondered how many of them
    cupped a whisper shorn of love and doomed

    _was like being locked behind the firebox door
    mouths crammed with heat, hands full of smoke, naked
    and singing despite the flames at our backs
    despite the fear dribbling down our necks

    _was a room within the room where we've
    plunged into the shallows up ahead
    stone dark with cottonmouths sliding over
    fat, green waters, around our waists

    _was an echo lost in a well
    was, finally, a wall of skins erupting into scars
    no one ever dreamed of, and a blank cold
    shouting deep inside our blood--here I am

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