On January 8, 1811 three men gathered together and planned what would be the largest
slave revolt in American History, rallying an army of 500 slaves in New Orleans, LA to
fight and die for freedom. Charles Deslondes, a mixed race slave driver, was their leader.
Charles, I imagine there came a point
where you decided enough was enough,
the sound of cow hide against flesh,
the alchemy of blood & sweat sitting
atop your lip, how the wind
from the Mississippi cooled it when
it raced across your mouth, teasing
your tongue to follow it beyond this
place. Or maybe they called you boy
one time too many; emasculated you
in front those you held dear. Or maybe
you grew weary of holding the whip
in your own hand, realized they had made
you a proxy for their deeds. When you
& the others came together to plan
the inevitable, hurled whispers from plantation
to plantation—a clarion call of what could
no longer wait—had you already accepted
what would be made of you? Did you anticipate
how they would slice your hands at the wrist?
Render your femurs two shattered vases. Burn
you at the stake while you watched them behead
the others, pull the intestines through
their mouths & wrap them around the bodies.
One traveler wrote: Their heads, which decorate
our levee, all the way up the coast,
look like crows sitting on long poles.
Could you have known that they would make
a scarecrow of you? I grew up hearing these
stories, of heads jettisoned from the body
& mounted above the streetlights so everyone
could see the gloss in their eyes. Charles,
they will leave me roasting in the sun
for everyone to see, a warning that this is
no place for revolution, that the sweet
whisper of the Mississippi must persist.