The Slave Chain

By Jessica Reilly, 5th Year

Object No. 39 Slave chain, late-ninth or early-tenth century
The County Museum, Dundalk

The darkness of the ship’s hull engulfs 

Like the coffin it’s inevitably leading to. 

Bodies everywhere, dead or alive 

I can no longer tell the difference. 

The ship lurches on stormy seas 

The chain around my neck biting deeper. 

Rattle, crunch. The metal snake chokes me, 

Then releases me, denying me the peace of death.

Remembering, my mother’s desolate eyes as 

Chained like dogs, the white men 

Marched us through our plundered town. 

If only the scene could be unseen.

The days and nights are indistinguishable, 

No food, no water, just rats everywhere. 

Their tiny claws scurrying all over, 

Sometimes nibbling, checking your still alive.

The stench of  sickness and rotting corpses 

Overpowers the senses,

Leaving those still conscious 

In a constant state of nausea. 

The moans of my people so close to death 

Are silenced by the landing of the ship. 

A land of thieves awaits us, 

Thieves who have stolen our lives.

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