Marge Piercy

 Bitter herbs

Out of slavery -- painful, yes, demeaning,

a narrow future of being worked to death --just

like Krupps and Farben at Auschwitz used

their slaves --but also accustomed.  They

had grown up in Egypt and Egypt was what

they knew.  To revolt takes a kind of reckless

courage, a willingness to leap into what could

you fear be worse.  At least I'm alive

the slave thinks, maybe the overseer will

learn kindness tomorrow. Blood on the lintels

marked those who would rise up and go --

into hunger, the wilderness, wandering,

the vast sandstorm of the unknown.


Now of course we have no slaves.  Only

millions upon millions sold into sexual

bondage, into chattel slavery to pay

debts their parents cannot meet except

by selling a daughter, a son.  Out of poverty

into worse.  When at our seder table we

are bidden eat the bitter herbs to remember

slavery, feel how many millions now

are bound.  Whoever cannot control her

body, whoever cannot own his labor

is caught in a narrow place from which

only death can open its black door.

Bent over machines in stiffling dim

factories, lying on stained mattresses,

beaten as they bend over fields to plant

and pluck, when will we helpfree them,

my people, when will we welcome them

to a table set with plenty?


Marge Piercy

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