Pride of the Planter’s Collection
by Alan Kissane, with image above 'The Slave Ship' by JMW Turner
Observe these old wounds, stitched together by
maggots, bound with black broken bandages.
See the way the light reflects the deep reds
and browns, reminiscent of the sea in
Turner’s painting. Touch the hard Nubian
musculature, honed, stripped, scarred: the strength and
sweat in, on, through the arm: His for chopping
wood, cracking stones, crushing and grinding corn.
Discern also these delicate fingers,
untouched by the grace of God, how they might
cull the blossoms in the fields of fallen
snow, branches unbroken, for His master’s
pleasure. Note the calloused uneven cuts
above mouth, nose and eye; they belie the
stain of the old world: stubbornness, anger,
stupidity. Look now, my friend, closer:
see those self same eyes, the contentment at
my robust Christian teaching: docile,
subservient, accepting, pride in me,
civilisation for the sake of
its soul. I don’t need to tell you the worth
of this particular specimen, sir.
It is the pride of all my collection,
and one I am loathe to part with. Yet I
am a man of honour, loyalty, and
faith, like my slave to me, our bond is one
of hard work and sacrifice, as it should
be. Let’s retire for lemonade. You, boy,
get back to the stables where you belong.
Chipped nails of chintz lie in a sink
like edited lines of an unwritten tragedy.
A sigh the size of a waning moon slides
into the gaping plug hole, floating momentarily,
before disappearing on a wave of spit and tears.
Something like ink stains the fingers of a young woman
or girl, cradling her phone, calling home, desperate
to halt the heartbeat inside her ears.
Her rib cage shivers and buzzes like the shattered
glass which fell in a crescendo onto screams
of battered fans dancing in frantic lines,
lost in a darkened room, momentarily
lit up like a Christmas tree in October.
Outside on streets of glassed confetti, a dog lays prostrate
beneath broken bodies bought and sold in the currency of bullets,
drowning and gurgling in melodies ricocheting
in and out, in and out, of skull, shoulder, and shin,
before billboard lights begin
to flicker and fold, as the mannequin at the sink
on the hospital ward listens again and again to the wheezing unfamiliar soundtrack
of the dying.