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Camille T. Dungy
POETRY
 

Tis of thee, sweet land
             (a poem of found text)


                            I tremble for my country when I remember God is just.
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                                                                 keep a sharp look out        
                                                                              under trap doors or in attic crawl spaces

                                                                              50,000 fugitives found shelter
not far from where they took a glass of brandy

                           pistols and bowie knives
                           suddenly become scarce in the market

the padlock and chain were left in the woods    
____________

raised corn and cotton and cane and ‘taters and goobers    
           
                                     then along came a Friday and that a unlucky star day

                          we have been at some great pains to ascertain the facts
____________
                           
                                  the institution is destined to become extinct
                                  at some distant day
    the wells have in some places dried up    
    and the supplies of many mill streams have been much reduced

the public are hereby cautioned against trusting or giving credit to any person        
    about Richmond
    the locusts abound
    they have cast their old shells and are depositing their eggs

                                      they have been heard to say blood must be shed






Title from “America,” Samuel F. Smith (1832); epigraph, Thomas Jefferson as quoted in the American Anti-Slavery Almanac, 1837; line 1 from “Caution!! Colored People of Boston…,” a placard written by Theodore Parker, April 24, 1851; line 2 from Underground Railroad Conductor, Tom Calarco; line 3 from A Pictorial History of the Negro in America by Langston Hughes and Milton Meltzer; lines 4 and 7 from “Just from Slavery,” The North Star, February 27, 1851; lines 5 and 6 from “Boston, 21st,” The North Star, February 27, 1851; line 8 from “Mary Reynolds, Texas,” in Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives; line 9 from “James Green, Texas” in Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives; line 10 quoted from the Commercial Advertiser of July 5, 1834 in The Emancipator and Journal of Public Morals, July 22, 1834; lines 11 and 12 from a letter by Henry Clay quoted in The Auburn Coon Killer, September 6, 1844; lines 13, 14 and 16-18 quoted from The Richmond Compiler in The Cooperstown Freeman’s Journal, June 5, 1826; line 15 from an advert in The Cooperstown Freeman’s Journal, January 18, 1830; line 19 quoted from the New York Commercial Advertiser of June 9, 1834 in The Emancipator and Journal of Public Morals, July 22, 1834.

 


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