A Poem For My History Teacher
I wanted to write
The best slavery poem ever written—
Perhaps win a Pulitzer or Faulkner.
I had every intention of conforming
To the standards
Of modern verse and composition,
Lyrics fluidly written,
Perfect in frame, tempo and time,
but a lot of my thoughts on Slavery
(and the Holocaust)
Were just too difficult to rhyme.
And though I found a few words
that rhymed with Oppression—
Most were slanted.
Granted not angry enough
To leave my true impression.
Forgive me for my error of expression.
Maybe Dickinson, Keats or Elliott
could have written this Poem
In a more graceful form.
So I suppose I'll use prose
to get me through this metaphorical storm.
It's going to rain so be warned.
I'm sure you'll find at least one example
of ASSONANCE in this Thesis,
which is repetition of similar vowels,
if you search carefully through the words,
but no guarantees.
For just doing the research on the Middle Passage
was a painful enough TRIP (no pun intended).
I can only imagine how much more painful
It must have been to have been there.
If you scale through my paragraphs
I'm sure you'll find a few examples of IRONY.
I know I included it in here somewhere.
And reading of a Black woman
Running through an icy lake with baby in hands,
Trying to dodge the slavers gun,
The masters whip and rod,
Screaming "Help us God"-
Chased into a cold lake by a Beast more colder
And then saved by the waiting arms of death—
Sometimes PERSONIFICATION can be too real.
How do you use ONOMATOPOEIA
to describe the sound of Adolph Eichmann
Throwing a Jewish child
Twenty feet up in the air
and shooting it before it hit the ground?
I wanted to compare these mother's screamings
But both ELEGY and PROSODY let me down.
Or when you read of a Jewish woman
Who had to quiet her baby
By feeding it her own Urine
To keep a murderous Nazi soldier from killing it.
How do you analyze the above sentence
to see if the meter is correct
or if the syllables are TROCHEE or ANAPEST.
I couldn't do it but I tried my poetic best.
Or a Polish woman who strangled her own child
just so the Germans wouldn’t do worse.
Blake or Kipling can you help me
put this in FREE VERSE?
Or a Black woman in the belly of a slave ship;
Breaking the chains—
Tossing her baby into the sea,
Saying "You ain't gon be no slave like me!"
As she was shot and killed.
This doesn’t need a TOPIC SENTENCE
And has no Theme-
There are a million and one listings
On Google under Bad Dreams-
Neither slavery or the Holocaust was listed.
If it's in Yahoo I certainly missed it.
And I rushed through a stack of History books
trying to find something happy to write about,
But no Historian ever recorded
Happy Christmas memories
of slaves eating half cooked chitterlings
and raw cornmeal by the fireplace
While the Master ate steak in the kitchen—
This just ain't happy ish.
Seven million dead relatives
Can really make Hanukkahs and Passovers
a real drag and ruin Birthday celebrations.
As for ALLITERATION,
I could only think of a lone sentence.
Why in the Hell did the Holocaust
Have to happen? How?
Millions of human beings executed in showers
while thirty-one Kings or more played Golf.
I'm sorry if the rhymes are slanted
or if the rhythm is off.
I could have used the word 'ovens'
instead of 'showers'
but what teacher gives extra points for METONYMY.
And how do you PARAPHRASE
an account of a Black man,
who quite possibly could have been
one of my great Grandfathers;
Each of his legs tied to a separate horse,
Each horse sent in an opposite direction,
severing his legs from his body—
while the captors cheered—
Pregnant Black women made to stand near.
And if written in a more creative form,
Would it hurt any less?
How do you write of ‘Castration’
with grammatical correctness?
Sometimes verbs and subjects
Refuse to agree.
I just wish I could find the right adjective
to resolve the discrepancy.
And could Frost in all of his genius and wit,
have put to poetry the painful wailing
of a Black child snatched savagely
from the breast of his mother?
A White child placed there to nurse.
Sometimes its hard to care
if the semi-colon is in the right position
or if the quotes or the comma comes first.
And though the sentence "Screw Hitler
and all parties responsible for the Holocaust!"
Is not model English and probably inappropriate;
I’d like to say it
for each of the seven million Jews
who died senselessly,
With no lawyer, court or voice.
I hope I don’t lose too many points
for bad diction or poor word choice.
And I wanted to include ANASTROPHE
which is verb and subject reversal,
but whether I write:
"Three hundred million paraded to the Atlantic shore,
never to see Africa no more."
Or if I write "Never to see Africa no more,
three hundred million, paraded to the Atlantic shore."
The rhythm may be different
but it’s still just as painful to write.
Or hearing our finest scholars
Debating whether Slavery or the Holocaust was worse.
This I can’t even put to verse.
And is there ever
a properly ending paragraph or conclusion for slavery
even when it still lives today in Somalia and Darfur.
The Holocaust was Slavery.
Slavery was a Holocaust.
All is Never lost...
Tyranny in the world is real.
Let us use these Archetypes to heal.
I end this Thesis
By irresponsibly misquoting Cummings—
Pardon the double negatives,
But Auschwitz was doubly
A negative experiences as well:
" Pity this busy monster,
Progress is a comfortable disease."
"...A world of made
is not a world of born--
pity poor flesh and trees and stars."
[Pity poor us].
That’s my Thesis for Contemporary English 201.
Thank You. I'm done.
Copyright © Michael Ellis | Year Posted 2021
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