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Stewing

By DaMaris B. Hill

Dilapidated conditions magnified sickness, and typhoid, dropsy, and tuberculosis ravaged the institution and resulted in a number of inmates' deaths... Laura Williams, a black woman in her early twenties convicted in 1887, died of tuberculosis one month before her sentence ended. 
                                           --Kali N. Gross, Colored Amazons


I dream of hounds. Their teeth loose in my veins.
Their howls consume me. They growl and feast.
She whispers not to run. I can't refrain.

Nightmares of this cell stirring in my brain.
To survive I would suckle possums' teats.
I dream of hounds. Their teeth loose in my veins.

Sweat pours from my body. It's heavy rain.
My intestine rotting, rising, my tongue reeks.
She whispers not to run. I can't refrain.

Tuberculosis fevers stew my pain.
Curdle my stomach's bile. Vomit creeps.
I dream of hounds. Their teeth loose in my veins

Awake to my own barking. My voice strained.
The nurse's compress grips me like a leash.
She whispers not to run. I can't refrain.

She tells me to hush as I try to explain.
The stale air in this jail folds in, death's crease.
I dream of hounds. Their teeth loose in my veins.
She whispers do not run. I can't refrain.

Added: Monday, July 7, 2014  /  Originally published in Reverie: Midwest African American Literature. Ed. Randal Horton. (2010). 5 September 2010. Print. (previously entitled Laura Dreams of Escape). Used by permission.
DaMaris B. Hill

DaMaris B. Hill is a creative writer and scholar. The majority of her poetry stresses connections. Her series of poems entitled boundlibertybelles are influenced by the research of Kali N. Gross in Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880-1910. She is currently writing a novel about two parents' struggle to control their daughter's sexuality during the 1930s. Hill serves the University of Kentucky as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and African American and Africana Studies.

Other poems by this author