Anecdote of the Middle Passage

I captained a slaver, the Annabelle Glaiver,
That set sail from Senegal’s coast.
Our hold it was laden with flesh you could wade in—
Below decks, three hundred at most.
We had to dump cargo just east of Key Largo
To lighten our load in a squall.
One third of the darkies went down to the sharkies—
’Twas either those few, or us all.
I had to think quickly—the old and the sickly
Were thrown from the stern in a flash,
And those unattractive, phlegmatic, inactive
Went over the side with a splash.
Our ballast thus lightened, our future was brightened—
The ship skimmed along like a gull.
We steered for Havana, then on to Savannah
With full sail and undamaged hull.
The owner was frantic and cursed the Atlantic
To see his investment so docked.
“A third of my niggers turned into fish-giggers—
I’m thwarted, I’m bested, I’m shocked!”
I argued that reason—in hurricane season—
Would have to prefer bad to worse.
“A venture that’s sunken like some broken pumpkin
Won’t fill up the venturer’s purse.”
“I saved all the chillun, strong men and young women,
The best of them—hearty and hale.
Imagine the hawking, the auctioneer’s squawking—
You’ll make it all up in their sale!”
He seemed to grow cheerful right after that earful
And did indeed realize great cash.
And as for your servant, I grew more observant
About when to jettison trash.

Derek Burgoyne is a Canadian expatriate poet and inventor who lives and teaches in Uppsala, Sweden. He is currently working on a book about Nikola Tesla.