The Gun-Slave Cycle

The prisoner sits
across from me
in the cramped airless cubicle
behind the plexiglass
hands gently folded
during this middle passage
between life and death
wrists ringed by steel
forged by
Smith & Wesson

It is an old story
of guns and slavery

Into the lower decks of the ships
the European merchants loaded
chests of “fine gunns walnut Tree Stocks”
“trading guns”
“buccaneer guns”
musket balls
blunderbusses with shot
boxes of flints
“caskes of powder”
branding irons
“3 doz’n and 2 padlocks”
chains and neck-rings
manacles and leg-irons

The hardware of bondage
to bind the cargo
plantation-bound

The guns for an African king
to wage unjust wars
to produce the next shipment
in the gun-slave cycle

Like manufacturers of old
Smith & Wesson
makes the guns
the handcuffs
and the profits
on an ancient metal circuit
of violence and misery

— Marcus Rediker
SCI-Greene prison

Waynesburg, Pennsylvania