- Ona Judge*
I, Judge you—once Master—who brought me to The Capital, seamstress to the Mistress,hair dresser, maid, caged bird amid the show. How you sorted—just short ofsix months later—, then shuffled us, in darkness, under the table,
so brieflyback to Mt. Vernon, to cheat the local loophole that would have freed us.Such subtle chattel-shuttle! Laws how you had your way with them and uswho knew—O yes—
you'd scratched your name on the Fugitive with your favoritesteel-tipped pen in that so-extravagant hand you'd practiced for land measure,then for state occasions.
Now, I too like the feel of a steel-tipped pen, small thanksto you. How it, sweet infant, settles in its cradle, the equilibrium and curve of thumb,fingers. What woman forgets the first birthings: the "O"s and "N"s, first words,stuttering first phrases? Ah.
None of this from you, enlightened Master. Nothing,Mistress. Nothing.
In darkness I fled, was in darkness hidden, and dark departedPhiladelphia. Three years, Mistress-driven, you harried me, contrived with kin,Customs (laws how you had your way with them), their trickster nets and traps,to fetch me back.
Huh! I was a quick brown snipe, Portsmouth free shore, my haven.I write it out, Two-Faced Whiteman, First Fraud and Liar. I who was Cypher, an Oto you.
(O Reader, Poet I, Judge you too.) [End Page 53]
STEVE MYERS has published a full-length collection, Memory's Dog, and two chapbooks. A Pushcart Prize winner, he has published poems in journals such as The Gettysburg Review, New Ohio Review, Poetry East, The Southern Review, and Tar River Poetry.
* after Erica Armstrong Dunbar's Never Caught