Given the circumstances, Clifton’s case not only offers insight into the impact of slavery on black womanhood but also showcases the impossible position of women like her. Clifton sought to escape slavery by slashing her infant’s throat…Kali N. Gross, Colored Amazons
vexed with wickedness, lies as promises, this Philadelphia—no love or joys, just ravens caged warning black mistresses. Schaffer pale as high cherubim and coy. with pleas for liberty twisted in his tongue, said he would unbind me. loose, as his wife. my ears cradle fetal desires freedom Schaffer whispers “take that honeyed babe’s life.”
amity pokes me twice. his a sweet prod. still born was our lust. still. i did our part. promised him no bastard chattel of God. still honey does not cry, nor beats babe’s heart.
slashes for dead honey. i’m bound. in blame. Schaffer is no savior. our sin, i’m chained. [End Page 61]
Damaris B. Hill earned a PhD in English-Creative Writing and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Kansas. The majority of her poetry is spiritually based and addresses issues of gender, race and identity. Eager to express the accomplishments of underrepresented women, she is writing a novel about juvenile delinquents.
Her selection of poems in this issue is based on the book Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880-1910 by Kali Nicole Gross, PhD., Associate Professor at University of Texas Austin. She was so genuinely moved by the triumphs and tragedies these women endured within the justice system that she has memorialized some of their experiences in her latest series of poems. Most of the poems attempt to create a first person testimony and are in formal verse. The use of formal poetic structure is symbolic of the women’s physical confinement within the Philadelphia penal system. It also acts as a critique of the economic and democratic limitations many African American women experienced in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is depicted as the beacon of liberty for Americans, but ironically it became the exact opposite for many of the African American women that migrated there. A majority of these poems blend the blues tradition with the conventional poetic forms.