Mother, Springhouse
(Oakland Plantation Series)
Richard Cleaver (b. 1952)



In Mother, Springhouse

you, the  TAWNYMAMA,

stand regally erect,

wearing a uniform under

a crisply-ironed apron,

hiding your red frock.

Your black face pockmarked,

your eyes, deep with sorrow.

In front of you, a white male 

stands, his open head reveals

a black face within.

A black face inside a White man’s head?

What does that mean?

Both of you, the White boy and the TAWNYMAMA are barefoot, easier to run on the plantation’s grounds.  

All at Mother, Springhouse,

are wrapped in ravishing silence,

Including butterflies, bumblebees, 

and other insects that transport nature to the plantation.

Wild animals, wolves abound.

By the side of the neo-classical 

building horned animals are present,

their golden horns curved, curled

above their muscled bodies.

There are more humans, mostly whites. In uniforms of metal

and tapestry.

On the base of the sculpture are three skeleton heads, their eyes hollowed, their bare teeth worn with use.

Breathe deeply into the skeletal heads. See the obscured eyes

of black men secluded within.

Curled twigs weave almost everywhere, like loose-woven 

birds’ nests fluffed in puffy paths 

that overlap one another. 

What appears to be a temple is that, a mingling of the time when African 

men, women, and children were whisked away and sold  as Slaves. 

In all this textured density can blacks have their just freedom?

In all this textured density you, the TAWNYMAMA, still tends to master’s children. 

You, the TAWNYMAMA, a SLAVE, hold things together.

At Mother, Springhouse.

© 2023 Flo Oy Wong

Listen to Flo Oy Wong read YOU, THE TAWNYMAMA
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