The Pursuit of Happiness

Crouched low at knee
bent at waist
Ade squat-waddled
through the tight cave passage
it was a posture
he was accustomed to
after all the life long
in the Lord’s field
plucking leaf, berry and bean
under the scorching
neck-reddening sun
but the darkness
that he was unused to
except when strapped
to his pallet
number eleven-eighty-four
in barracks cluster nine
every night
the rows of immobilized
tied taut ‘til dawn
then back to harvest

The bray of the many hounds
echoed – behind him
beside him, before him
around him
their hunger, desire
drooling loyalty to murder
he detected glee in their wild yelps
a happiness in their pursuit
as a boy he’d been told
the greatest gift a servant
provided the Master’s table
was not the labor of their toils
but the joy of them, of their place

The tunnel narrowed
after leagues, it ended cruelly
maybe he missed a fork
missed an opportunity
he turned
there were the growls
of the dogs, blind as he
but their noses, with those
they could smell the dirt
of their Master’s land
on his clothes, on his skin
they could smell
his perspiration, his terror-sweat
his breath
the scent of meat
the meat that he was
only meat
unable to stand up tall
uncertain if it was worth it
to run momentarily free
how they sang of freedom
bent at their labors
but what did it get him
once he fed
as a slave
the Lords and Ladies
as a freeman
he fed their dogs
their joyful dogs


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