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HAYDEN, Robert

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack 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.”