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Marjorie Martin
THE INHERITANCE

In
the past
Black backs bent low in the sun.
The fluidity of their labors
race down one
by
one.

“The cotton is high,” Massa says, “jus’ right for pickin’.”
A stream of brown spews from his mouth,
lands on ragged wounds causing pain, but ebony-skinned men
must swallow words of protest down here in the South.

They bend to their life’s work, this is all they know.
The only inheritance left to give their children:
wounds on festering fingers, heavy hearts,
and the way the cotton flies
free
when the wind
blows.