Sunday, August 1, 2021

Wampum by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers



In the early contact period, New England Indian wampum consisted of small tubular-shaped shells drilled and strung as beads.
— Alfred A. Cave

The breaking of clouds begins with seizure.

A man grabs another, reasons ransom.

A murder averted in the thing’s scheme.
A cape’s shell transformed, more than one supposed.

What stands behind this? Enemy or friend?
(Yes, they can be both. Don’t you think I know?)

List: Dutch. Indian. Pequot. Puritan.
List: Then. War. Event. Now. History. List.

The shell buys glories of iron and pelt.
Wampum is dismissed. Joke. Sneer. Currency

of the disappeared whose children live still.
List: Blessing. Curse. Wife. Slave. Savior. Savage.

The shells make their noise. The robbed graves cradle.
He who brings food to the starving gets cooked.

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