My Foot in Theirs

Orginally written for the Earle Richardson Ekphrastic Review Writing Challenge:

Employment of African-Americans in Agriculture, by Earle Richardson (USA) 1934

My Foot in Theirs

Could these be footprints long hardened in rock ?
 I wondered as I stepped on the mound;
 The lives once defined in the sand- coloured clay, 
 Hard spent under the glare of the sun.
 I closed my eye to imagine
 Striped cloth in line with regimental row,
 Determination and order: the strength of the women 
 Upright and strong defining conformity 
 Robed and stooped  but not in submission,
 In dutiful bond
 Stepping in unison , labouring hard
 United in pose, in colour and creed
 Protected? – a different question 
 Unshod in slavery’s emblazoned position 
 Cotton picking but singing forbidden, 
 Irrespective of age, lives bought for a price;
 What when they’re gone 
 Like imprints on sand, 
 Slavery scrubbed out like a stain on the land?
 But the footprints were there, 
 I’d seen them, I knew
 The contoured maps 
 Of lives on their skin 
 In the way that they moved in the toil that they did;
 Ashamed what the price of freedom meant 
 I thought as 
 I planted my foot in their place.   

2 thoughts on “My Foot in Theirs

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