Plantation White

by Gary Bills

A loaf of white sugar: it might as well be marble,
so hard it is, so perfect. So unused.
Behind thick glass at the little museum
it could be mistaken for the nose-cone of a rocket,
it might be a shell of phosphorus, from the Somme.
But this is far older than monkeys in a Sputnik
and older than a slaughter in the mud;
this Pain de Sucre made by slaves
who cut the cane, and cut the cane, and died,
was packed like a guilty secret in the hold
and sent four thousand miles to Bristol Docks
where rows of ships were loud with groans and chains.
Young traders, fat on Caribbean sweat
and fine Plantation White, to sweeten tea,
secured the swing of commerce with a whip,
when life was cheap for those with ready cash.
The owners of this cone, they must have loved it;
they never cut its flanks with iron teeth.
For years it must have hardened in a pantry,
a muslin-mummy, safe from time and flies,
till no-one even knew that it was there;
forgotten in the dark: this pregnant crime

HQ magazine. 20th anniversary issue

Gary Bills's picture

Gary Bills was born in Wordsley, in the West Midlands, and currently lives in Herefordshire., He has published two poetry collections, which are The Echo and the Breath (Peterloo Poets, 2001) and The Ridiculous Nests of the Heart (bluechrome, 2003)., In 2005, he edited the anthology, The Review of Contemporary Poetry for bluechrome, sold on behalf of the Stroke Association., He has won various prizes, including Poetry on the Lake’s Bill Winter Award in 2003, for the best short poem., Gary is a graduate of Durham University, where he studied English Language and Medieval Literature.

Last updated June 28, 2011