Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Sea Island Magpie



Fanny's Nightmare


Not again! She awoke, soaked,
The same damned, damning vision:
Dusky men writhing around her,
She, oblivious, lustful even, smiling.
Wailing wafted upward to deaf ears...
From beneath, unseen women,
African women...wives, mothers
Sisters, daughters cried to no avail...
Whatever the white men wanted,
They took...and took...and took.


The glamorous Fanny Kemble,
Floating adrift on an African sea...
The stuff of deeply troubling dreams.
She well knew what lay beneath
The little shell-topped mounds
In plots on Butler and St. Simons:
Slavery eats children like candy.
Sickened but still stout of heart,
She would flee "Negroland" for good,
Determined to stop the screaming...




Fanny Kemble, a famous English actress, left the stage in the 1830s to become Mrs. Pierce Butler. A few years later, Butler, an American, inherited two plantation islands on the Georgia coast, Butler and St. Simons, along with the hundreds of slaves who lived and worked there. The plantations were managed by white overseers, including a father-son combo that reputedly fathered many "mulatto" children. Pierce made regular visits to the islands, and, reluctantly, he took Fanny down to see the source of the family's wealth, a place she came to call "Negroland." She soon left the Sea Islands and, eventually, left Butler. Fanny, a talented and avid writer, kept a journal in which she described in detail the horrific reality of slave life on a plantation. For more about Fanny Kemble and Pierce Butler, see this PBS resource:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1569.html
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2920.html


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15 comments:

Other Mary said...

Very good! I like the direction you have taken this.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Wow. Thank you for the history lesson. So much I don't know. It's humbling.

"What the white man wanted, they took and took
and
took."

And I don't think we'll ever be able to put that behind us.

Thanks for introducting me to Fanny Kemble. I love your poem.

Donna B. said...

Wow. Wow. wow.

Linda said...

I love the way you are able to weave the story together using expressive imagery. It is difficult to travel to some painful places, even for a magpie. A poignant glimpse into history. Thank you, Carolina.

Templeton's fury said...

great response and thanks for the history lesson :)

Brian Miller said...

slavery eats children like candy...tight line...and great story telling of a very chilling time...

Jo said...

Beautiful, brave, and unflinchingly honest...just like Fanny, herself.
Bravo!

Gerry Snape said...

It must all have seemed so right at the time...no thought of the actuallity of the feelings of humanity. Great poem and history. about the

Wayne Pitchko said...

ya I really like where you went with this also...thankls for sharing your words

janaki nagaraj said...

Nice take on the prompt

Catfish Tales said...

My interest was held captive by your lovely, fluid style. Well done, you!

Tumblewords: said...

Excellent piece based on the history of these strange people we call humans.

NCmountainwoman said...

Very strong and moving. I have been interested in Fanny Kemble since my first trip to Georgia's "Golden Isles" when I was a teen.

My husband and I have been to St. Simon's several times. (Even stayed at the Cloister on Sea Island once.) When we go we always drive through the plantations, wander around Christ Church yard, visit the ruins, and the graveyards. Your poem makes me think you must have stood there as well. I loved it. And I will recall your powerful words next time we visit down there.

Helena said...

This is what I love about Magpie Tales, not only does it supply wonderful writes such as this, but it's also an education. Thanks!

Tess Kincaid said...

Brilliant line "slavery eats children like candy"...enjoyed the background on Fanny Kemble as well...thank you, Dr. L...