As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Jennifer Bartell—Poetry

She Who Peopled We

What’s there at its bottom:
shells      hulls              skulls
of broken slave ships
with broken almost-slaves?
Who is to say the moment
that an abducted African
is forced into the word slave.

We could find here the black shark’s tooth tourists want to wear around their necks.
Who is to say if those sharks cut their teeth on slap-wet
brown flesh.

Waves, salted with tears,
smooth the sand where
I stand.

Ocean bound and land locked: me—freshwater
Geechee looks across the ocean and the moon looks back, surely she looked up
between the slates of wood. Seeing the moon shine even in the belly of the ship
because there is always a moon in the belly of the beast.
And there is always a song in the throat of a bird, even the sea
gull with his harsh squawk.

I look up to the sky of my help thank that one of me,
that one of we who was eaten
but not swallowed, sacrificed but did not die,
went to the Door of No Return and came back and came back
and came back and is back.


Jennifer Bartell received the MFA in Poetry from the University of South Carolina. Her poetry has been published in Callaloo, PLUCK!, The Raleigh Review and Kakalak, among others. Jennifer is an administrator for The Watering Hole, a poetry collective for Southern Poets and poets of color who write about the South. Jennifer is a Callaloo Fellow and teaches at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, SC.

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Issue 3February 14th, 2014
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