The forgotten ones “at the cemetery, /walnut grove plantation, /south carolina, 1989”
The poem at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989 by Lucille Clifton is a six stanza poem with many repetitions throughout the poem conveying the idea of how the slaves that worked in the walnut plantation were forgotten and not honored. The speaker of the poem, who is taking a tour around the plantation and cemetery, expressed anger throughout the poem as the tension slowly escalates ending with repetitions of “here lies”. Putting all the elements of the poem together, paradox and repetition, it perfectly articulates the underlying meaning of the poem, which is to remember and honor the dead slaves, men and women, whom worked in the plantation and treat them more humanely.
Reading through the poem, it can be noticed that there is not one uppercase letter and even the word “i” in line 16, “and i will testify”, is written in lowercase. The title also does not have any uppercase letters even though “south carolina,” a proper noun, is being used. Since the main idea of the poem is to honor the dead slaves, the lack of uppercase letters can be interpreted as the speaker trying to diminish and make everything be on the same level. Through the repetitions, the tension slowly escalates. The first repetition is: “tell me your names.” It can be inferred that the speaker is trying to give the slaves humanity by giving them names instead of calling them inventory. The way the speaker is demanding for the names can also be understood that there were no proper grave stones for the dead slaves, which makes the speaker upset: nobody mentioned slaves
but somebody did this work
who had no guide, no stone,
who moulders under rock. (10-14)
These slaves were evidently buried “under rock” where no one can know their identity, much less remember them. This is evidence that shows how dishonored the slaves were. Because of this stanza, we can understand the implications...
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