Praise Dave

For David Drake, 
Enslaved potter from Edgefield, SC  

First time I see a jar rise up, 
I be midwifed into life. 

Understood how these pots and I be
kin—dismissed to what’s under foot.  

I learned to turn and turn—
people the world with pots. 

I pour my need into the knead 
until forty thousand around me crowd, 

but everything I love, I lose 
so I want what I mold to hold. 

Even my empty pots 
be full. One say: 

I wonder where is all my relations 
Friendship to all—and every nation. 

There are lanterns in my words— 
every story got another story. 

Some call me Dave the slave, if that’s all they got,
I say leave the rhymes to me.  

When people look at me, a slave be 
the first excuse they use not to see me. 

I say praise me. It won’t fall on deaf ears.
I catch praise like most people catch

I am a 6-foot vessel of anything, but 
ordinary a one of a kind with a Carolina

I stepped out of the rows of cotton 
to master the potter’s wheel. 

I take the wind out of can’t. 
with my mark, I make a mark. 

I sign my name Dave. 
I don’t write slave.

See if my pots and I spin history. 
See if we hold hold hold…


Copyright © 2015 by Glenis RedmondThis poem appeared in Drunken Boat (2015)Used with permission of the author.