Catherine Sasanov


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Ode to the Lost Slave Cemeteries


(Greene County, Missouri Ozarks)


They’ve plowed the fields

where death’s


held down


beneath squat, illiterate

stone.  So much


dusty, windblown blood.

The type


that rarely died in bed.


Can’t you taste

long shadows


cast from drops of it? 

Screams blown


from farm to farm?


Developers want you

to know:


There is no eternal rest


where slaves, dead infants,

share a bed.


No grounds man comes

to soothe their sleep,


tuck in

the anonymous grass.


(And the wound

through which I’m looking


out at this?  All lacy curtains,



of glass.  Domesticated

festering.  All the blood


washed off my hands.)



backhoed –


Once destruction came



as a man

striding in with his fear


of ghosts, his metal

on a stick.


Now hearsay’s the map.

It leads to this: back


where the living

were once alive


to visit.  Down where

the city sprawls


all over it.











Catherine Sasanov is the author of the poetry collections Traditions of Bread and Violence (Four Way Books, 1996), All the Blood Tethers (Northeastern University Press, 2002), and Had Slaves (Firewheel Editions, 2010), written out of her discovery of slaveholding among her Missouri ancestors.  She is also the librettist for Las Horas de Belén: A Book of Hours, commissioned by Mabou Mines.  Las Horas, a Mexican-U.S. theater collaboration, explores the religious, economic, and institutional prisons women have found themselves in, from the Colonial period through the present, in Mexico City.   Sasanov lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Her website is

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