Once there lived in times of
A master who decided he would free
His slaves and settle
them on fertile land
In a free state. He carefully had planned
act, had taught his slaves to read and write,
To calculate, keep books,
and know by sight
The native plants and animals where they
find themselves. Then they made their way
By cart and then by boat and
then on foot
To their promised land. Their master put
Each family on
a quarter section, and
Gave them tools and seed to plant by
Then he left them with their legal deeds
To land and freedom,
thinking that their needs
Had been well taken care of. Little
Knew what happened once a slave was free.
One family had a
daughter, Emma Lou,
So virtuous and beautiful that you
Would fall in
love with her within a minute --
Sweet tempered, with a smile that had
The sun itself, shining in her heart,
So happy she seemed, so
uninformed by art.
She moved with an unfathomable grace
seemed to fill the boundaries of each space
With beauty and with
goodness, coming from
A well whose deep delight was never
She helped her mother Callie in the house
And in the
gardens they kept round about,
And took care of the younger children,
Were happy to be watched by Emma Lou.
Her father, Nat,
feared her beauty would
Attract men who intended little good.
it happened. One day, riding by
Their farm, an evil judge just chanced
Emma Lou bent over pulling weeds,
Imagining her tending
to his needs.
His lust was lathered by a glimpse of breast,
from that moment he had little rest,
But fantasized fulfillment of
Again, again, again, an unquenched fire
That moved him to
attain his wretched goal,
For he had little pity in his soul.
hired a farmer from a neighboring state,
Where slavery was legal, to
That Emma Lou's whole family once was his,
years before. The judge then quizzed
Him briefly on the relevant
And soon the luckless family was in jail,
To appear, of
course, before the corrupt judge,
Who ruled that they were slaves, and
would not budge
Before clear evidence that they were free,
witnesses who testified rightly
That they knew well these former
slaves, and knew
They had been freed, swearing this was
One set out desperate on a futile ride
To find the master,
who, alas, had died.
And since no black could testify in
According to the law, all was for naught.
The witnesses who
knew the story best
Were silenced, and the judge refused the
Ruling inadmissible their word
For reasons that were patently
In the end, the only evidence
Allowed was what would
damage the defense,
And so the family soon was re-enslaved
the judge's hireling conveyed.
Emma Lou was to the judge then
As an indentured servant, and was told
Her family had been
auctioned off, each one
Separately, and so the deed was
How bitter then her soul, with fire purged!
How pure the
rage that through her heart then surged!
But she would bide her time.
She had no lust
Except to do what now she knew she must.
first she was but raped -- no tenderness
Or pretense of a kiss or a
But slowly, as she played the lover's part,
passion touched the judge's heart.
Bit by bit he loosened up the
Till she at last could slip her supple chains.
he fell asleep right after love,
Heedlessly, an error that would
His last, for quietly she moved away
From him to where a
letter opener lay,
Eased over to it, and, lifting it on
Stabbed the sleeping villain in the eye
And then the throat
and then the heart. A cry
Of pain and then of horror shook the
And then a bloody silence. In the gloom,
Emma Lou sat weeping
on the bed,
Not for him or her, but for, instead,
Her family, and
the millions still enslaved,
Whose honor in that moment she had
She didn't care when she was seized and bound,
in jail as the country round
Came pouring into the square. Soon a
Was lit, and as the lurid flames shot higher,
down the door and dragged her out.
The crowd received her with a savage
Of hatred that went up into the sky.
Someone with a knife
took out her eye
While others beat her bloody and then bound
a stake sunk deep into the ground.
They scattered wood and straw around
Then lit the fire with torches. Along the street
A cry of
victory went up; the flames
Followed as she called her family's
One by one like bullets to destroy
Their evil world, and all
she felt was joy!
Yes, joy! For death was life to her, and pain
what it cost to be free once again.