The White Iris Beautifies Me

Not the white of hard-won cotton,
or of pitiless snow—

I’ve found a whiteness
that gives me its glory;

it blooms
in Master Bellemare’s garden,

and though it is, by all accounts,

quiet as it’s kept, I’ve carried it
into the shabbiest of cabins,

worn it as I witnessed
the slave-breaker,

the hanging tree;
in dream-snatches

it blesses me, and I become
more than a brand,

a pretty chess piece:
at the mistress’s bell,

always prudent and afraid,
wily and afraid—

And when the day comes,
my rescuing flower’s name

will become my daughter’s;
a freeborn woman,

I swear,
she will never be shoeless

in January snow.
Bold Iris,

she will never fear sale
or the bottom of the sea.


From The Gospel according to Wild Indigo (Southern Illinois University Press, 2018) by Cyrus Cassells. Copyright © 2018 by Cyrus Cassells. Used with the permission of the author.