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Syndic Literary Journal

Slave Stones


Matthew Hohner

Hoffman Family Cemetery, Manchester, Maryland

Even here in the pillowy shade in June on a wooded hill
above the Gunpowder River, far from the noise of cars
and cities, horrors mark the soil where bodies rot. Such
innocuous phrasing: many of their loyal slaves—a footnote
at the base of a monument to a forgotten family. The first
paper mill in Maryland, a son called hero in the war
for independence, a son killed in the war we call civil.

Step past the granite headstones, further into the fenced-off
plot of history where someone once blessed this small square
footage of death: weeds, empty beer bottles, stones placed
in sloppy rows protruding among ivy and mosses. Under
each stone, a pair of calloused hands, a back full of scars,
ankles and wrists measured for shackles. Under each stone,
a name, a heart full of ache, a mind of dreams. Call her
granite, call him schist, their children, marble and slate.

Who now to move aside the old weights, to call them
forth from the soil of amnesia, into light, into freedom?
A breeze lifts oak branches overhead like song, turns
the pages of tulip poplar leaves. Sun glints like sparks,
like ricochets off the shallow currents far below.


Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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