To be infrastructure: the pipe
that carries water across town
to fill the kettle, the fire that boils
the water. And conveyances?
Your calloused feet in inadequate shoes.
Intelligence gathered at Comfort's well:
that, too, you filter, bring home
what won't alarm your mistress.
Taut as telegraph wires, your muscles.
When you rise in darkness
from your straw bed, candlelight uncoils,
the breakfast fire comes alive.
Your utility's indisputable. They'll
never survive without someone like you.
These six poems are from a linked collection about the 1741 New York City Slave Conspiracy. In the trials, on the testimony of a single teenaged servant girl, over a hundred slaves were burned at the stake, hung, or sold to the West Indies.