The House Slave

by Rita Dove


The first horn lifts its arm over the dew lit grass
and in the slave quarters, there is a rustling.  

 Children are bundled into aprons, cornbread and water gourds grabbed a salt pork breakfast taken.

  I watch them driven into the vague before dawn while heir mistress sleeps like an ivory toothpick  
and Massa dreams of Asses rum and slave funk.  

 I cannot fall asleep again.   

At the second horn the whip curls across the backs of the laggards.  Sometimes my sister’s voice, unmistaken, among them   
Oh Pray she cries Oh Pray.   
Those days I lie on my cot, shivering in the early
heat, and as the fields unfold to whiteness ,
and they spill like bees  
among the fat flowers,

 I weep.

 It is not yet daylight.