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HAYDEN, Robert

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early

And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he'd call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love's austere and lonely offices?

Middle Passage
But for the storm that flung up barriers   

of wind and wave,  The Amistad , señores, 

would have reached the port of Príncipe in two,   

three days at most; but for the storm we should   

have been prepared for what befell.   

Swift as the puma’s leap it came. There was   

that interval of moonless calm filled only   

with the water’s and the rigging’s usual sounds,   

then sudden movement, blows and snarling cries   

and they had fallen on us with machete   

and marlinspike. It was as though the very   

air, the night itself were striking us.   

Exhausted by the rigors of the storm, 

we were no match for them. Our men went down   

before the murderous Africans. Our loyal   

Celestino ran from below with gun   

and lantern and I saw, before the cane- 

knife’s wounding flash, Cinquez, 

that surly brute who calls himself a prince,   

directing, urging on the ghastly work. 

He hacked the poor mulatto down, and then   

he turned on me. The decks were slippery 

when daylight finally came. It sickens me   

to think of what I saw, of how these apes   

threw overboard the butchered bodies of 

our men, true Christians all, like so much jetsam.   

Enough, enough. The rest is quickly told:   

Cinquez was forced to spare the two of us   

you see to steer the ship to Africa,   

and we like phantoms doomed to rove the sea   

voyaged east by day and west by night,   

deceiving them, hoping for rescue,   

prisoners on our own vessel, till   

at length we drifted to the shores of this   

your land, America, where we were freed   

from our unspeakable misery. Now we   

demand, good sirs, the extradition of   

Cinquez and his accomplices to La   

Havana. And it distresses us to know   

there are so many here who seem inclined   

to justify the mutiny of these blacks.   

We find it paradoxical indeed 

that you whose wealth, whose tree of liberty   

are rooted in the labor of your slaves 

should suffer the august John Quincy Adams   

to speak with so much passion of the right   

of chattel slaves to kill their lawful masters   

and with his Roman rhetoric weave a hero’s   

garland for Cinquez. I tell you that   

we are determined to return to Cuba 

with our slaves and there see justice done. Cinquez— 

or let us say ‘the Prince’—Cinquez shall die.”