Mother of the Cane River Creoles

for Marguerite Guillory

I.             c. 1731, Senegal

A legacy: gazelles feeding on browse
to the south of her village hut, the sun
rising from the ocean floor to the east.
The Sahara, west of her home, rosins
the sky hazy pink with sand carried from
the harmattan. Memory sits with her
like a dream as she stands chained to other
motherless children in a coffle.
They march toward a shadowy bough floating
in the middle of the sea creeping closer
to the shore, a ship called Le Prince de Conti.
She’d never seen an ark like this before,
didn’t have a word to call this belly
never full, going to swallow her too.

II.             July 22, 1764, One [Negresse] named Marguerit[t]e
                    Aged 35–40 years old
                    Estimated value of … … … … … … … … 400 piastre

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