Chorus of Slaves by Lisa Rhodes
Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possible, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.
–Dr. Maya Angelou
Westcott Plantation, Montgomery, Alabama 1845
I don’t know why, I have to be birthin’
my baby for 3 days. And I don’t
know where my baby be, I never
hold it, or let it little sweet lip, suck
my milky breast. All I know is now, I
have a hole in me, that shame me, like
I be an outhouse. Revolting…be
what Dr. Sims say I be… After
Dr. Sims done experimented
on me, I now have 3 hole in me
be leakin’ out foul fluid. And this is why
nobody be wantin’ nothing to be doin’ with me.
I done sold to Dr. Sims
by my Mastah. My husband
and child done left frightened.
My Mastah say, he done glad
to be rid of me. He say
I should be grateful, Dr.
Sims done took me in, because
He don’t be knowin’ what to
be doin’ with me.
Dr. Sims say he be the only
one that done took me in, and oh…
He be revolted. Dr. Sims—
don’t be knowin’ what it be feelin’
like, to done stitched up and be achin’
for somethin’ to be takin’ the
pain away. Dr. Sims done said
blacks don’t be feelin’ pain…
He done wronged. I be feelin’ so much
pain, I can’t be sittin’ down.
All I be feelin’ is my sore womb
Be burnin’ with pus, and my stomach
be achin’ from hunger. I don’t be
knowin’…how much longer can I
done lasted here, with 29
other women, who be justin’ like me?
I done experimented on, 30 times
by Dr. Sims, and I don’t be feelin’ well.
Day go by and I be wonderin’…
when finna is my last one?
Chorus of Slaves:
Dr. Sims done experimented
on us, because he don’t be havin’
any experience or know what
he be doin’. Dr. Sims be treatin’
us, like we be farmin’ animals.
Dr. Sims be seemin’ mighty sure,
to find a fix for what be sickin’
us. And Dr. Sims be sayin’ he
be goin’ to keep be experimentin’
on us, until he be findin’ one.
Dr. Sims be givin’ us some Opium,
after he done experimented
on us, and we can’t be movin’ our body.
He don’t be givin’ us much food, for
many week after. He be sayin’
we don’t be needin’ to be eatin’ and
be drinkin’ much but to be stayin’ still,
so the hole he be tryin’ to be fixin’
can heal. It be seemin’ soon as we be
startin’ to be feelin’ a little
better, Dr. Sims be puttin’ us
up on the table again, to be
done experimented on.
I be feelin’ we be worse sickin’
from the Catgut he be usin’ to
be fixin’ them hole up. Lord don’t be
lettin’ us be dyin’ on Dr. Sims
table, done experimented on.
We be feelin’ so much pain, before the
Opium be workin’ after he done
finished experiment. Dr. Sims
Be actin’ like, he don’t be knowin’,
How much pain he be causin’ us.
One day, I be goin’ to be
fleein’ this wicked Doctor. And
lately, I be havin’ this sick feeling,
I finna go through Heaven arm, to be findin’ my way back home.
ABOUT THE POET
Lisa Rhodes-Ryabchich writes from New York. She has MFA in Poetry from the Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y. where I studied with Tom Lux, Joan Larkin, Kevin Pilkington, Marie Howe, Billy Collins, and Martha Rhodes.
Lisa has also studied poetry through Cave Canem in New York with writers such as Jaci LeMon, and Myronn Hardy. She have taught poetry at Westchester Community College; mentored prisoners with PEN AMERICA prison writing program and work presently as a real estate and life and health agent in New York.
Chorus of Slaves