Patsy Kennedy Lain – Three Poems

Slave Child

Me mama sez dem dar Big Haus folks
ar im-por-tant cuz day allows us ta stay
in dis broken-down cabin, feeds all nine of us.
Hecks, weez can see da ground thru da cracks in da floor,
seez piss ants parade, fight creepin-crawlin bugs.

Why, me wonts ta play on dar purdy green grass
whar mama goes ever day, but Mama tells me ta stay
har on da dirt yard dat chickens poop, dust scatters
when weez play. Mama says ifin weez goes up dar,
weez has to works and weez not big nough yet.

All me ol’ sisars, budders go ta da field wiff papa cep
me and Zellie, weez too dang young day say. Tis hot har
and dem dar nats stick ta ya sweatin skin. Shoot,
Me, Zellie yearnin ta goes sumwhars sides dis chicken-scratched


No Color

Fifty years past,
Little Tom had a notion
she could still hear
humming, smell
dust close on Grace’s heels
as if Grace bump-skipped
up the path.
She smiled, remembered
lonesome before
Grace moved to Magnolia.

Little Tom thought
about their being best
friends, neither
attentive to different
skin colors, close
like sisters after spending
over a year’s time
as neighbors. Little Tom
recollected daily visits.
Her worst flashback recalled
that one visit Grace
never arrived—
found half dead, beaten, barely
able to move. Little Tom
remembered nursing
Grace back to health—
keeping her safe
until her family rescued
her from a brutal,
drunkard husband
who Grace, one of 10,
married with hopes
of a better life.

Little Tom’s head
shook, smiled as she
sensed her friend
coming up the path,
a child, only fourteen,
in 1938. She delighted
in that they remained
lifelong friends, Little Tom
buddies with a young girl
of no color
who matured, married
again, and named her
firstborn Tommie.


White Ghosts

Who knowed what white sheets
could come to mean in those days of slavery
in dark of night, rambling through corn fields, floating
with cut-out holes as eyes for those wishing to hide
behind a shield of white as if they were ashamed
to be white ghosts.

Who knowed those sheeted devils,
angered gents, meaned men hollered like banshees,
circled round fires blazing hot near trees
with rope nooses hanging, became animated animals, ignorant,
terrorized, tortured colored men, women
in amber fields.

Who knowed salvation, years in the coming
involved cruelty, hangings, left behind burnt ashes on farmland,
charred crosses embedded in lawns of colored family homes,
before freedom allowed some release, remain still slave to white folks’
in kitchens—cooking, cleaning, caring for their children
continuing to work hard as liberated slaves.

Who knowed free meant still being looked down upon,
shunned by white folks’ even years later with equality on paper,
although now slaves to better lives requiring harder work,
and legal liberation aiding the rise of equals, enabled slaves’ children
the chance, means to become great doctors, lawyers, and such,
as times, colored sheets change on beds, ghosts linger.