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56 Below Stairs Tim Greenwood Muted voices murmur from inside the dark stone dwelling, Echoing past the neat rows of marrow and corn; Past the nail shops and storehouses, joineries and smokehouses, And down into the densely wooded valley below. Its inhabitants are ranged around a plain table, Which was forged by their own hands here on Mulberry Row, Like everything else which fills the smoky room, Which began as four bare walls and is now their home. They speak with the carefully measured cadence of the physically exhausted. Their bodies and minds numbed by another long day in the fields; Behind a plow or, worse, tilling the soil with their own bare hands. Men, women and children, toiling together in blazing sunshine and freezing snow. Working without pay or prospects, only a miserly food ration And the hope that one day they may earn a prized place In the equine warmth of the stables, or the noisy confusion of the kitchens, Or, better still, rise up against their master and flee north to freedom. But for now they are here, watching the pot bubble on the hearth, Waiting for the last man to return from checking his traps, Maybe bringing with him rabbit or two, Or maybe bringing nothing at all. Later there will be reverent singing and vivid storytelling, Or perhaps a game of dominoes to liven their spirits for a few brief hours. 57 The simple things which keep them from relinquishing their humanity, And becoming simply the commodities as which they are bought and sold By Jefferson and men of his ilk, who sit in cradles of opulence Built on the foundation of slavery, on the imprisonment of his fellow man. Great men who achieved independence for their nation, And yet denied that right to so many of its native born sons and daughters; Who now make so much of small pleasures, because their troubles are so great. Encompassing entire lives, entire families, entire generations, Whose sole misfortune was to be born with dark skin, In a time and place where there was no greater crime. ...


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