From Chapter Nineteen
Beyond them they can see other mighty divinities, Jesusmaryandallthesaints, PeterandPaul, Mathewmarklukeandjohn. They sometimes fancy they pick up the voices of the past, answering their prayers, and after presenting their gifts of flowers and fruit, they come away filled with hope that the great loas have agreed to grant whatever they were being implored to do.
The slave pressing their tintacks into the trees whisper:
- their love of a man, their love of a woman
- their love of a child
- their hopes of reprieve from punishment
- their thanks for surviving punishment
- their fear of being burned alive on a barbecue like the young slave who ran away last week and was caught and tried and was sentenced to death by this method
- their terror of having a foot chopped off for stealing (some of them have been stealing)
- their trust that their little boy will recover from the quartan fever.
Some women ask for:
- a fertile womb (they also ask for a barren womb sometimes).
Many pray, on the death of the master:
- that the new one may not be worse.
They imagine torments more atrocious for the bakkra (which is what the bosses are called) than they have themselves received at the order of mistresses who wear bonnets and corsets and use the civilised manners of Liverpool or Bristol or London -
They think of their children's warm squirming bodies and entreat that as they grow up they will not be hurt as they have been -
They also ask to send the ball singing over the Stockade at Flinders -
And Sycorax hears them, her teeth chatter and through her wasted lips there comes a sigh -
copyright Marina Warner
From Indigo, Chatto, 1992