Talking to the Bones
(spirit of enslaved New York City Chimney Sweep
Apprentice: 18th century)
What of only chimneys and flues?
This: the one moment master permitted
me to be above him
Only in filth could I gain favor
Did you ever dream?
Things like thoughts weighed
too heavy on my head
How should you be remembered?
The neck a storm; the head a cloud
unsettled by its own weather
Talking to The Bones
(spirit of Joseph Castins, only enslaved New Yorker
whose full name is known and who is buried
in New York’s slave cemetery)
Had you made Joshua Delaplaine’s acquaintance, Mr. Castins?
Death: a sad cabinet is it not?
Joseph, when did Delaplaine put you in his account book?
My account: with G-d
How did you die with a given and surname?
The first shall have a last and the last shall have a first