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Boats held human cargo to transport slaves
Photo by zhao chen on Unsplash

On barefoot beaches, silenced souls reaching…
Dangling toes wet of waves, with life
Shimmering through,
The oceans deep,
By the blackness…
Of man’s heart.
Surging sounds surround,
Within and without,
A ship’s contour reading for more,
Loss of life for a few pennies stored,
Black man’s life,
Worth nothing more..
Can you hear them now?
A cacophony of sound abounds…
While debris drowns, as seagulls swoop,
Flashing white beaks…
To eat bits of flesh,
As the rest,
Seeking, reaching,
To stand upon the top rung,
Of ladders that are not there…
Scared no more,
To land on shore,
The many more,
Left in the wake of deliberate mistaking
Innocent lives breaking,
Like waves wet of life…
Devoid of flight,
Drained of might,
Unanswered plight…
Can you hear them now?

See ship’s sails billowing…
Death wind willowing,
Sun rays shadowing,
Tattered cloth filled with the air,
Of prejudice and greed,
Increasing speed,
As if nothing was wrong…
To the cargo,
To the slave,
To the Black man,
The Human Being…
Leaving Black bodies to dance,
Along white caps,
Of the Ocean Blue…
Can you hear them now?

Not a crime committed…
Fraud charge convicted, depicting,
Slaves as nothing more than,
Used furniture,
Bought in some second-hand store.
The more history repeats,
Nothing is done, as in 1781…
Please, listen for them now…
On barefoot beaches,
Silenced souls reaching,
Cleaving to the sound,
You cannot hear…
It must be heard.

Writer’s note: this poem is dedicated to those who perished in the Zong Massacre, the mass killing of more than 130 enslaved Africans by the crew of the British slave ship Zong in 1781.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Jeffery Shockley is a writer incarcerated in Pennsylvania.