Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Sisters in Venom"

This poem came out of the January 3, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from aldersprig (women being evil to each other) and DW user Serpentine (the dark lord as a woman).  It has been sponsored by the_vulture.

"Sisters in Venom" is probably the harshest poem that I wrote in this fishbowl session.  In addition to prompts, it draws on antebellum American history.  While not based on an individual  incident, it is something that played out in many plantation households.  I read about this conflict pattern both in history and in feminism.  If you choose to discuss it, please try to be respectful of other people's beliefs and feelings; this is controversial territory.

WARNING: This poem contains racist and sexist language, vicious behavior, domestic violence, and ugly history.  Sensitive viewers may prefer to read something else.

Sisters in Venom

He is her husband, but he don't love her.
She knows what he does with that nigger wench.
Here in the Big House, she may be Mistress,
but everybody laughs at a wife who can't keep her husband at home.
She takes a switch to that black girl's hide every chance she gets.

He is her owner, but he don't love her.
She knows how he smacks his bitch of a wife
and she ain't fooled by his honeyed words of freedom;
she swivels her hips at him anyhow when she sees Mistress watching.
She hides bent nails under the floorboards of the Big House.

These two women hate each other with their whole hearts,
for all it was him who started the war.
They sow thistles and reap thorns
with every word they say.
They lick razor blades
and smile at each other through the blood.
They are sisters in venom only.

At night, he tosses and turns, wondering
why he can't sleep a wink in either of their beds.

* * *

Notes & Resources

Slaves often put curses on cruel owners, and evidence of this has turned up in archaeological excavations of slave cabins and plantation houses.  The bent nails are one such example, often placed under a bed to cause nightmares.  "Plantations ... Are They Haunted?" touches on some of the mystical traditions and beliefs about slaves cursing their owners. There is a lot of Christian sermonizing toward the end, but the earlier overview of the topic is pretty straightforward.

"Mistresses and Slaves" looks at both positive and negative interactions between white and black women.

"Gender, Sex and Slavery" is a class discussion resource summarizing different beliefs and actions relating to racism and sexism in antebellum America.

For the best understanding of the experience of slavery and what it did both to black and to white people, I recommend American Slave Narratives and other first-hand accounts such as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and the writings of Harriet TubmanAbolitionist writings are also worth a look.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, gender studies, history, poem, poetry, reading, writing
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