The editor enters, saying throw it all away,
you have no choice if you want to read it!
The writer says, I prefer to read the Adele
story, or is Fidele the boat paddlewheeling
down the Mississippi, cardboard cut-out
con man on board daily in his Sunday best
milking the passengers, giving them a deal
they can’t refute, it’s been such a long time
Melville imagined a tale to match his times.
Best, friend, you sit, write, and read later . . .
Thus the need for paper, pencils, even ink.
Ah the old days replete with milk-toast truth!
You could hear the cries for more and faster
dancing, the masters’ voices: We have slaves
to entertain you! and do they work? They do
more work in an hour than any of us can do
in a week, but that’s because a whip masters
the unmastered, and damn if we don’t know
how to get a day’s work out of our pickannies!
says each massa of his very own plantation.
The writer prefers his lies to the gospel truth:
He learned to work on a ship from Redburn.
What if he told you how to milk cows, prune
vineyards, pick fruit after thinning the trees,
fill potato sacks all day, load them in boxcars
till midnight, work canneries during harvests,
and whatever else waits to be done on a farm
and out there to make money to stay in school.
What if he told the truth? Who would read it?
I will, he thinks. He’s learned to talk this way.
(5 October 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander