J. Barrett Wolf


By Any Other Name

           “...the slaves refusing slavery, escaping into faith”
                                   - Muriel Rukeyser, Akiba

The deity invented in man’s own image 
could have forbidden owning another,
             It could have been written: Thou shalt not enslave.

could have forbidden stealing into their beds 
and marketing the children they made.
             It could have been written: Thou shalt not rape.

             It could have been written: Thou shalt honor all humanity, not merely your tribe.

On the very day you rise up, 
full with understanding
that there is no almighty at work in this, 
that white men say you are for tobacco 
and cotton, the auction, and the ground…

Those same people who taught you to look toward the sky... 
that their lord commands love and mercy,
will forget the sixth commandment, 
disappear into the dark
and be waiting for you, 
      with rope.

JBW is Poet in Residence at the Bundy Museum of History and Art in Binghamton, New York, as well as the Director of WordPlace – The Southern Tier Literary Center, also located at the museum. He has been writing for over half a century and has published dozens of poems. He’s the author of the volume “Stark Raving Calm” published by Boone’s Dock Press. His upcoming book of love poems, “Kissing the Moon From Your Back,” will be going to press shortly.