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The Gun-Slave Cycle

The prisoner sits
across from me
in the cramped airless cubicle
behind the plexiglass
hands gently folded
during this middle passage
between life and death
wrists ringed by steel
forged by
Smith & Wesson
It is an old story
of guns and slavery
Into the lower decks of the ships
the European merchants loaded
chests of “fine gunns walnut
Tree Stocks”

“trading guns”
“buccaneer guns”
musket balls
blunderbusses with shot
boxes of flints
“caskes of powder”
branding irons
“3 doz’n and 2 padlocks”
chains and neck-rings
manacles and leg-irons
The hardware of bondage
to bind the cargo
The guns for an African king
to wage unjust wars
to produce the next shipment
in the gun-slave cycle
Like manufacturers of old
Smith & Wesson
makes the guns
the handcuffs
and the profits
on an ancient metal circuit
of violence and misery

Marcus Rediker

SCI-Greene prison

Waynesburg, Pennsylvania

This poem is from Naked Punch 17.  To order a print copy of the issue click here.

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