The Transatlantic Progress of Sugar in the Eighteenth Century
I own I am shock’d at the purchase of slaves,
And fear those who buy them and sell them are knaves...
I pity them greatly, but I must be mum,
For how could we do without sugar and rum?
— William Cowper, from “Pity for Poor Africans”
smell of cane
cloud on triangular
horizon whip trilling a red
aria molasses the smelling hull
& chained bones the practical sharks
trailing hoping for new bodies overboard
taste blessed rape
hollowed burn & brand
some girls mostly boys this holy
trinity of “godless dirty savages” island
patois rum down a throat lump in some tea
science of journey & the peerless smell of cane
Copyright © 2020 Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. From The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan University Press, 2020). Used with permission of the author.