Laments of a Slave

by Tselane Mbou

I lays in this bed of straw.
Hoping for the day the ground will thaw.
I needs to be getting up to stokes the fire so it don’t goes out.
I lays in this bed, don’t wanna think. 
Pulls the torn blanket over my head wanting the ground to open so in I sink.
Mastah be coming soon.
Hates it when he comes in here.
Fills the room with so much gloom.
Don’t like it when he comes so near.

Done born Mastah six babies.
Done lost three men.
“Animals don’t love” he said “ It’s a God forbidden sin.”
“Make babies to sell.”
“Tend to the fields.”
“Then die go to hell and hang by your heels.
“I own you.  Freedoms not yours. 
“I brought you to tend my crops and to mop my floors.”
“ And have my lunch ready by noon.”

Just biding my time.  Looking for those doors I hears will be opening soon.

Many a night I cries, tears always in my eyes
Since Mastah sold my John away

My John was black as night
Love my man, first time Mastah brought him into my sight
Eyes that would make you weep
Strong arms that rocked me to sleep

Mastah be coming soon.  
Go away! I want to shout
You nasty smelling goon

Gots to get up and tend the fire before it goes out

Don’t know my right age
Aint that a shame
Mama Moe saids that what they calls me aint even my right name
She says she believes I might be twenty and three
Am I to young to know such misery?

I remembers my mama
Hair in black rings all around her head
I think I might have been nine or less when they shot her dead
“Serves her right. Shouldn’t have tried to run.” Was all they said
“Sell the girl.  She’s no good to me now.”
“Sell her off.  Don’t want her around.”

I had a new meaner Mastah the next day
Took me straight to the shack
Stole my virginity away

Biding my time.  Waiting for those doors I hears will be opening soon

I Hears him coming.  I knows his walk
When he comes through that door I will not talk
To him to make him feel great
Must bottle my hate
Just remove his boots
his pants
his shirt
All the while his hands be up my skirt

Biding my time

I’d thinks of Samala, she is real
She is Africa

She will not toller even Mastah’s Mastah talking to her with disrespect
She has the power
They all say
Don’t put yourself in front of her
Or she’ll send you away

I needed to fly
I needed to run
I refused to die

Came through Samala door
Threw myself on her dirt floor

Oh sista of beams, Mother of light
Help me grow wings sews I’ds can take flight

Do you know what you ask?  Once done, cannot take back!
Think about it.  Think about the things you’ll lack?

I don’t care I need to fly
I have my baby inside
Don’t you think I’ve cried enuf?
Don’t you think I’ve seen enuf?
Don’t you think I’ve stuff
Enuf straw in my mouth
So’s when Mastah leaves my cabin
My woes won’t shout out?

“Let me tell you a Yumlaga (a story) about what you request.” Samala said
As she stroked my crying head

Zita was a spoiled one.  Ten and 2 at the time of this yumlaga

Pride of his motha
Woe of his Fatha

“You coddle him to much” he say.
“He must become a man.  He’ll be married someday.”

She shakes her head
Listened to what he said
Clicks her tongue.  Zita was her only son.

Now Zita was in his own little world
Fight with the other boys
And taunt one little girl

As they grew older he taunted her more
His taunts were of love, yet,
He could not open that door

Laseta knew of this
Because from birth she was his

But her father promised another
No one else could be her lover

She came to me and asked one day
“If I can’t be Zita’s, I want to fly away

Fix it my sista of beams, Mother of light
Give us wings, let us take flight.

She was told to listen close and listen well
Do as I say or less you fail

She was given instructions as to what she must do
Out of Samala’s hut she flew

Down to the water for the feather
Back to the skinning hut for the leather
Up to the mountain for the flower
Hurry! Hurry! She kept telling herself for nears the hour

She told Zita to meet her under the weeping tree
From that point they would flee

Just before dark, Zita came
Lasata had the fire glowing
Anticipation overflowing
They looked at each other knowing of love and trust
Hurry! Hurry! She said, for it is almost dust

She chanted what she was instructed to say
In the fire went her mystic findings packed in red clay

She felt a prickling, a tingling in her arms
A look at Zita quieted all her alarms

She felt herself lifted as her body shifted
To fit what she was to become

But Zita just stood there looking oh so dumb

Then as she shifted for the last time
She remembered a part of the magical rhyme

“From morning to night, Noon to day, send all bad thought away.”
“At the dust of night, a new beginning, send all this I’ve giving you burning and spinning.”

The village wondered why Zita never married	
And why he always tarried 
With this black bird 
That showed the day
Lasata was no longer heard

“Now listen to me and listen well, less all you do will fail,” Samala said to me
I took it all into my ignorant head
I took it all in without dread

Now here I am, not as free as I like to be, but free
Waiting for the birth of my baby

I did flee that night
But not on wings
Just listened as the black bird sings

Of freedom
Of choice
And how my son will have a voice

Sometimes my head goes to wondering if the world would ever change
I hopes so.  I hope it’s all rearranged.

Laments of a Slave by Tselane Mbou

© Copyright 2001. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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