By Marilyn Nelson
For Ruben Ahoueya
Today in America people were bought and sold:
five hundred for a “likely Negro wench.”
If someone at auction is worth her weight in gold,
how much would she be worth by pound? By ounce?
If I owned an unimaginable quantity of wealth,
could I buy an iota of myself?
How would I know which part belonged to me?
If I owned part, could I set my part free?
It must be worth something—maybe a lot—
that my great-grandfather, they say, killed a lion.
They say he was black, with muscles as hard as iron,
that he wore a necklace of the claws of the lion he’d fought.
How much do I hear, for his majesty in my blood?
I auction myself. And I make the highest bid.
The epigraph of this poem was originally omitted in the changeover to the new website. Because of this, reciting the epigraph is optional for the 2019-2020 Poetry Out Loud season.
Marilyn Nelson, "Worth" from Faster Than Light: New and Selected Poems, 1996-2011. Copyright © 2012 by Marilyn Nelson. Reprinted by permission of Marilyn Nelson.
Source: Faster Than Light: New and Selected Poems, 1996-2011 (Louisiana State University Press, 2012)
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