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Inspired by the 1778 painting, Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle and Elizabeth Murray by David Martin

Dido like the queen of Carthage

As Belle as Helen of Troy,

Who could hide a beauty so coy

When guests dined at Mansfield Manor?


Whenever you romped through your estate

A Greek chorus of powdered wigs

From worlds old and new frothed

At the contradiction of your existence

You belong to a lineage of lettered half-slaves

From Grandpa of Three Musketeers to Black Mozart

Your propertied fathers ferried you all from Antilles

To metropolis as if it were your North Star


In this reversed Middle Passage, you laughed

With your cousin as playmate— not handmaid

And wielded rights denied to your African mother

Yet little of the acceptance given to her naval captor


You were poised to grow up an alien on land you

Could only half-claim, child of an unholy union

Never mind your mother named Maria

Whose death marooned you in Britannia


Did you find yourself among the servants?

Did you ever mistake the nanny for an auntie?

Drop the feathered turban and bowl of exotics

Lest you become an odalisque's domestic


Waters which swept you to the mainland

Drowned truths from your native land

And carried rumors of your upbringing

To men who would face their undoing


If the peculiar trade were ever abolished

To them, you governed your great uncle

At the age of ten and freed chattel reared

With a whisper in his judging ear


Your face launched not a thousand civil suits

Yet your grace was an affront to the white race

Gilded dress and pearled neck emboldened

Your dotted dimple and chocolate smize


As misbegotten as you were

Heralds of empire could not deny

English elegance in your learned mind

Despite whatever laws left you bind


From inheriting your mother’s blight

To acquiring your sires’ wealth

Your transformation from slave to heiress

Is, among rags-to-riches stories, the fairest


Had you stayed in the Caribbean plots

And lived amongst Maria’s lot

Could you imagine, as you laid dying,

Liberty in a Black nation rising?

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Meet The Poet

Ⓒ Crystal Foretia 2022 All Rights Reserved

Meet The Poet

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