Transparent Words - Poetry


Gary Blankenship



Song of Myself #21 - Immigrants

Song of Myself #22 - Cane Cutters



Song of Myself  #21 - Immigrants

21.  The groups of newly-come immigrants cover the wharf or levee

We braved walls of ice and uncommon cold

to follow the herds to where no man stood

Chained against air and sky,

we traversed the Middle Passage

to view your struggle for freedom

We withstood ceaseless storms to cross the oceans

for the Golden Mountain,

to enter the City on the Hill,

and succor the land for our prosperity


We laid your rails, roads and bridges,

drew coal from the ground to fuel your homes

and forge your machines,

picked your lettuce and cut your cane,

plowed your fields and fought your wars,

made your beds

and cleaned your toilets


From steerage and deep holds,

we have become the highest

and too often have been tricked

into remaining the lowest


And now you form a wall against us,

you see us only as “wretched refuse”

though we stand where you stood

and desire what you desired -


the hallowed light of liberty




Song of  Myself #22 – Cane Cutters


22.  The woollypates hoe in the sugar field


Under the glare of a Louisiana sun

and the scowl of Boss Jim,

from sleepy dawn to tired dusk,

hoes chop and cut and hack


behind the hovels

Massa Sam calls quarters

we are allowed a patch

for greens and roots

watered and weeded

by the little, pregnant and aged


until the hoes replaced with knives

to cut the cane

to boil the cane

to purify the molasses

to distill into rum


a good harvest expected

a bit of okra and turnips

collard and peppers

old Massa Sam don’t cut our vittles

for the crops behind our huts

even though young Massa George would


sent to Liverpool for trade goods

sent to the Benin for black men

sent to America to hoe and hack

and cook and refine cane


when our children and theirs

leave for their offices

factories and schools

full of  sweetened cereal

remember who weeds

and chops the cane


until the trumpet blows





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