The Life and Hard Times of
Allyn Hagar: an American Slave


We knew, yes us we knew, but I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  I really don’t know.  One hears stories; his-stories; and her-stories.  One never can tell what is or is not the truth.  One overhears voices but one doesn’t know quite what to believe, or what to do.  So cold a man’s penis will freeze right off!  It is quite ugly.  We never know quite how to tell if a story is true, or how to describe if something is whole.  Maybe they are just trying to scare us off?  I don’t know exactly how cold it can get, but I do know that it can get awfully mighty cold up north in the Great White North of Canada; much colder than down around here south alongside the Mason-Dixon line.  They say one can get frostbite in the fingers and toes.  There are Arctic storms and Arctic winter and Arctic winds and Arctic cold.  What’s frostbite?  I don’t know.  Maryland winters are considered to be relatively mild, we get a little snow, we let the snow melt and we hope to try and muddle through.  The Underground Railroad stops in Ontario and Québec.  Since none of us speak French, we thought Toronto, Ontario would be our best bet.  That much I know, for there is much I don’t know yet.  Jim, a fellow slave, said he would tend to the necessary details for the trek.

And yet I still don’t know.  It is all so new.  Jim was his name; he came from sweet Carolina, so unattached, unscathed, so good looking, young and strong, my child would need support for the long journey and help as a guide.  I noticed in the last few months that the master was acting kinda weird, kinda blue, unkind, strange, a flesh tone hue of aquamarine and shame.  The master had just bought Jim to be around him for helping the farmhand laborers; cleaning the stables; helping out in the fields of Spanish colza.  I like when the blossoming yellow turnip plant flowers.  The talk was of war and fear, the news was the threat of secession.  The master did little to provide details or facts.  The master was alone.

Sole was the master, the master had a soul but no children he could call his own, except of course Mary, my daughter.  He was young but still, he was alone.  And he was courting disaster in a new way.  The fashion and frisson was palpable.

Call me Allyn or call me Hagar, call me Allyn Hagar if you wish or if you will, please, dare me.  Perhaps you don’t care for me?  I care.  Please take care.  I am servile, the harmonious lover of the master, a child of few years, a woman of nineteen, almost twenty!  I am the mother of a child, Mary, just three years of age, oh how I love her so, the master does too, will she be able to keep up with us as we trek over arctic tundra? 

As the days go by, morning comes and I prepare the fire for the oven and range.  Breakfast is early; the master rises with the sun, as the child sleeps in.  Lunch of sandwiches and soup, or just delicious soup, we dine supper late after sunset.  Saturdays and Sundays Mary and I dine with the master in luxury in the seemingly palatial house’s red painted dining room. 

Soon the time will come to prepare for the journey, a day, a night, again and again.  Jim speaks of a new life, but I don’t know, he hasn’t proposed… yet.

I was born on a farm just outside Hagerstown, in north central Maryland, near the border with Pennsylvania, where I cannot remember my father but I remember my mother was a proud and stubborn woman, a woman the old farmer could not stand and so he sold her to another farm and kept me as a housemaid.  Years later our new master (we’ll call him Allen, for that is not his real name, but we like the symmetry of the suggestion), came to our farm and found me with my pedigree in housework. A great partnership was made and begun.

And a great mystery was also born again, I don’t remember when it began, I just know that the party is over now.  I am in need of thinking about Mary.  It’s about providing protection. It’s not that Allen is mean or cruel.   It’s just that he acts as though he owned us!  The gall!  And to think of the reality we had together.   

Think what is possible; think “Chinatown.”  Think L.A. USA.  She’s an American Girl.

It is quite ugly, being led, like a horse or an oxen; it is ugly, it has been said, this thing some call involuntary servitude.  In its stead allow me to place a person, or a horse or another mother-mare, to permit me to digress a moment, to help tell the story of a mother, a slave, a brother, and to allow for in the expansion of the grave and stern decorum the possibility of a beautiful sin, a sign of the times, and a yellow flower of beginning and friendship.


And today the Spirit of the modern master animates my pen in hand; I feel the frisson of the modern shiver the whole night through.  Dark horses appear and fears cease to matter.  Hallelujah!  Alleluia!

The naming of Allyn Hagar was left to fate and circumstance, pomp and glory.  Little known to her parents was the possibility it would turn out to be true.   The name of Allyn is British/Celtic for the word meaning “harmonious,” as Hagar is the anglicized version of the Arabic “Hajjar” or one who performs the Hajj, a holy journey, a pilgrimage, to Mecca for those of the Islamic faith.  Allyn might become a traveler too if plans of mice and men go forward.  We don’t know how she will do; the end of the story is unknown as of now.

It’s about a girl.  And she is an American girl, though her family has roots in Africa, she is of the toil and soil of the New World, a world awhirl with hopes and dreams of freedom, a home south of the line, a home by design, meant to be modern, meant to be fine, a coal miner’s daughter for some, she’ll become a farmer’s daughter on the run, a drop in the bucket of tears; a girl who brews beer with her own two hands; a girl who for a bier would bend her back over backwards.

The Hagar family name is meant to honor the biblical Egyptian handmaiden and slave of Sarah and Abraham.  She agreed to be a concubine for Sarah and Abraham and bore a child son, Ishmael.  She is revered in Islamic culture and religion, as she is reviled for her sexuality by Judeo-Christian believers, a nexus or connecting point between different religious cultures.  We know so little about her; from the Bible we find a handful of chapters about her and her child.  She may have had a universal or Greek catholic world view, a giving soul who loved her father, he who became a Father of a People. 

Hagar may have had a generous world view of life.  I believe she would be like Allyn of our story, a young woman, but still a child, a woman who would grow to love Abraham despite the fact both he and Sarah were using her, to be freed and not reviled, to go to the barren desert to survive, with Ishmael, a young man of fourteen years of age.  Was the banishment a hidden or perhaps some kind of secret reward? 

The story of Hagar, or Hajjar, is a powerful presence in the telling of the African-American slave story of Allyn Hagar.  As the history of the Bible goes, Hagar may be the first person in the world to have her slave story told.  Her, or their, story of slavery as paternal love, mimicking the father/daughter relationship of God the Father and Child of God, is the “ideal” southern slaveholders aspired to.  The sexual relations between Hagar and Abraham become tremendous and troubling. How each individual master responded to the challenge is unknown.

And we just have to know… now don’t we?  To Canada, did she go?  To Freedom and the cold, cold winters of the Great White North?  Hajjar did travel to the sandy desert and managed to found a People of God, perhaps Allyn might have done similarly?

God is Great.  Hallelujah.


And we need to talk; to talk about the fields.

We need to talk about the fields of colza.  Colza is the Spanish, French, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese word for the plant responsible for the manufacturer of Canola oil. Canola oil is named after Canada (CANada Oil Less Acidic), and is very popular worldwide.  The original name of Canola oil is rapeseed oil, or rape oil, made from rape, an ancient turnip animal fodder and later machine oil, a fact probably well known by the modern master of French poetry, Charles Baudelaire. His first book “Les Fleurs du mal,” may have been inspired by plays on words, like how “The Flowers of Evil” plays on “The Yellow Flowers of Rape.”  The dichotomy of rape’s identity: good, bad and ugly, might mirror the relationship of slave, master and innocent child.  Sergio Leone might agree?  Thus we have three identities for rape: The Sin, the crime, the assault and sexual violation; The Waste, the seeds, the leftovers of the wine making process, and The Flower, yellow, growing, and beautiful!  As the slave is ugly, the master bad and the child good, the three may form a bouquet of LOVE.


The consideration of the life and times of an American slave is fraught with unknowns and uncertainties.  It takes a true story to get at the reality of the history.  I think the basis of the American Dream applies here.  A home, the security of a home, the need for a sense of place, a space, a plain, a plain candy wrapper, the prospect of forty acres and a mule, a shack, where peace might be found, down south, where happiness lives. 

The life and times of Allyn Hagar is a very personal story, founded in one’s own personal experience.  What we knew in 1862 is just as important as what we know now.   Baudelaire has been dead for almost 150 years, a span of time like a bridge of spiritual mettle.  That we might be able to learn from ancient design and story; is the lesson of the Bible.  So true; so be it.

God is Great.



As the stars bright provide the light to follow a railroad to freedom, its starry night is in sight of the prize.  And as our Arabian knights guide us to prosper, the prosperity of a wealth of love, not hate, a latter day saint heralds and beckons us forward, though it may be too late for her…

Earth Angel.


The Swan, the  Field & the Willow 4

Come, as if buried in moisture, 
come, like a branch of the willow tree,
come, like a branch of the river,
a riverbank & me,

Now come, as if treading water, 
come, like the swan seems to be,
come, like a picture of quietude, 
& a memory.

As the field of colza prays 
over this wholly pastoral scene,

(come into my world)
our swan is settling in 
for winter's cold,

And with pasture French spoken 
& elegantly appointed,

​(come into my whirled)

the willow seems to share
its leaves of gold.

Come, as if buried in moisture, 
come, like a branch of the willow tree,
come, like a branch of the river,
a riverbank & me,

Now come, as if treading water, 
come, like the swan seems to be,
come, like a picture of quietude, 
& a memory.

DEC. 2016


                  In memory of Charles Baudelaire

The swan & the willow.  Le cygne & le saule.
The sin & the soul.  Le signe & the sole.
A sign of the times.  The tines of the rake.
The old man benign.  Simple & brave.

The branches of the river pregnant with catkins
yellow offerings of the day,
a rope taut and forgiven for the afternoons
that pass by hers and our way.

The celebration of the wedding by the High Priest
a mass of hair blue, a scenery,
the know not what we do, we knew, we knew,

As the swan swims serene, white snow,
the dealings, a black mask and the tree, 
giving, giving, & then again, giving!


Hagar, Abraham & the Rape of Liberty

It was ugly, the assault on Liberty, her bodice torn,
an unruly morning of the past battle for freedom, 
French style.  The rebellion was lost among the politics
that follow and show of force for justice.  The People suffer.
Hagar and Abraham had no struggle, his respect for the human
dignity of Hagar was the foundation (cornerstone) of her 
love of the paternal master, a lover and a man.  A child born
was torn between two mothers, not ideal.  Abraham granted 
Hagar her freedom, emancipating her to the barren desert,
she was confident in his judgment, and went south towards Mecca,
the past is prologue to the future.  Go to America and see 
where we have been.
But go to France, first, 1830, December, the rebellion over 
and the promise of a new day. She is depicted as a heroic 
and victorious Amazon, a Gigantic woman, no child, but young
and vigorous, a woman done wrong, perhaps?  Now, go to America,
2001, a girl in a yellow dress, a death, a seizure, perhaps, perhaps not.
Amy Beeder borrows Delacroix's yellow dress and finds the child dead,
a memorial to the People who fought for freedom under French rule
in Haiti, Port-au-Prince.  A slave rebellion, some surely died, 
a dress torn in Paris, a lost glove in America, the new world.
Our word for rape comes from the Latin word "rapere" meaning
"to seize".  Was it a seizure that killed the innocent child?  Was 
she the victim of a rape? What did Hagar wear?  White?  Where 
are the horses?
The heroic horse as a woman comes from "Un cheval de race," 
by Baudelaire and Carl Phillips' poem, "Monomoy."  In both poems
the image of a horse is complicated by ambiguous surroundings. 
In each, the horse is standing upright (for justice?)  The Amazonian 
woman of Delacroix's masterwork is surreal.  Too real.  Super real.
Phillips is working toward a new reality.  So too Amy Beeder.   The 
sin of the rape (echoed in memories of "Leda and the Swan"), is 
the sign of the modern times, a renewal of vows of chastity. So it is
that the turn of the millennium finds a new Truth to the sin of "Le Cygne".
The clothes, the dress, of each woman is yellow for that is the color
of the colza rape-seed oil plant.  The rape of Liberty is modern, 
as the Canola oil is Canadian.  American. Yes we can, together. 

Jan. 2017

Yellow Dress 4
                                                                    --Chicago River, 1717

Desperate wilderness, Fort Dearborn wouldn't arrive until 1803,
Chicago was a river, we were lost in the foreign jungle of the city,
a city that did not exist in Christmas, 1717, a fort, a success,
13 years before the mills came to Waltham, Massachusetts to twist 
the strands of Southern cotton into the yarn and the story of America.  
To create a sense of a country united by a common vision, except 
for Other Persons, a thought that would not survive the nineteenth 
century Men and men (and Women).
A girl, an American girl, a slave as the world saw her in the midwest 
of her home, a girl, a grrrrrrrl.  A whirling dervish on the stage 
where fur hunters, soldiers and a sorry lot came and went, 
a church going girl, a Sunday supporter, a blue girl, a taking for a 
carriage ride, the country ways come narrow and they come wide, 
by the river they return, no surprise, and the flowers wild will not decline 
to shed their spring time petals, winter is here and a test of her mettle,
as he seizes her Spirit, her holy spirit, and shakes her to the core, 
we adore Chicago, her river, its name she had adopted, as a girl,
not yet a woman, but capable of release.  "Please, don't call 
the captain," he would not understand, she knew what she had 
to do, they parted, understanding what was next.
She had been to the strand of the river before, a quiet place, 
a silence that she assumed for herself and the few who had
been there, like her, before.  Like a church building, a meetinghouse,
the land was broad and widely forgotten, seemingly endless
with a potential for possibilities, for tomorrow, for forgotten
yes-to-the-day today, a day of glorious color, her brown and 
copper arms, the armament of her yellow dress, now hanging 
from her hips, a cold, bitter and risky, the Truth was known, 
not even a kiss, the reality of a zone in her mind, a design 
of human frailty, a muskrat runs and dives, the image of her
as a half-naked body to be found down river, hopefully they will
find the one who did it as well as get the body risen.  
An American girl, a country woman, she does not understand
why he left her alone, a hurt woman, a girl at heart, a mature 
girl, the river runs, the Chicago river runs with her essence
and her loan, life borrows, ashes tall, the spirit of Chicago
lives among skyscrapers today, a loop, a belt, a long way away.
Tall, that's all.  Wading from the shore, waiting for the moment,
not swimming but like in lore, but walking gently into the current,
into the now, into the future, a Time to be at One, to be proud,
the nirvana she does not know, but for a promise of Heaven,
a prospective of gold, black gold in a yellow dress. 
This is not the first time a virgin was impregnated by a God.
The story of Greece, the Roman Empire, the Egyptians 
and the Hindi, a Truth of black and gold, a Boston Bruin
story, a hockey tale, her drowned body found, no distinguishing
features, a comical tale, the sadness of the One who goes
it alone, a world of happy campers to be made gai.
And a girl, an African girl, like Phillis Wheatley, young and bright,
a poet in her choosing the river to name her, an American girl,
a woman whole and true, a complete Person, without the vote,
a take as things come and she felt she should go so she went.
She went home.

The Wheel, the Weal, & l’huile
 With various thoughts swimming around in my head, I am a little bit lost in the pool, I may be drowning, as I wish to write something new. I want to come out with a gai and happy attitude that affirms "American Values" (equality) and recognizes history (19th C. slavery & racial inequality).  
We value as we worship the Figured Wheel.  Real, in movie reels, like a fishing creel we'll scramble the eggs and cook a meal, for the children of course, oh how could I forget, the parents pay the rent, and go to the museum, a converted temple of Greek or Roman design, with columns, capitals, attic and pediment.  With wheels from all ages, Egyptian biblical chariot to the Indy formula One race cars we thrive.
Motor oil is present, but not too much, as machine rape-seed oil will be here to make an appearance.  When those "funny cars" deal and those dragsters peel down the strip, what do they use as lubricant to help make their wheels smoke, slip, spin & grip?  I don't know either...
Wheels.  Prairie Schooner wagon wheels, Conestoga wagon wheels, wooden with spokes.   Railroad freight car wheels of steel and cast iron.  Plastic wheels on my nephew's "Big Wheel".  A place in the temple kept sacred and whole, where one might leave a loving keepsake or commemorative "trophy".  A small stone in some cultures, the word "souvenir" comes from the French to mean "remembrance."  The French "huile" will have its place, a quiet corner perhaps, for being our hero of the flowers of evil, flowers of rape, flowers of good and the flowers of bad.  I'm sad, I don't yet have all the ingredients to bake my cake of oil and track, I will have to think some more...
We'll wheel out the cart that carries the load, the weight of history, the possessor of faith, a proper place, not front and center, but always present in its own way...  The weal of commonwealth, the prize of the private citizen, a weal of wealth, of prosperity, a new religion to your health, the wealth of inheritance and the gain of the accumulated  years.  We will need a donation from The Duck .  A sock, that'll do!  Damn I'm good! 
Don't follow me, I'm lost (like you?)  I didn't know, I thought you had this under control.  I want to dream over two hundred years of history, to flip a switch, a single pole, to turn on all the lights, Christmas Tree Rainbow Gold!  The tree makes people happy and they feel secure.  God Bless you and God Bless America, on the open road.
The wheel turns as time passes us by.  The wheel burns as we follow its own direction.  A dishcloth churns in the water of the kitchen sink, an aster learns from what is said here.  A flower & a rag play catch and tag, the wheel learns too.  Blue, who knew, the sense of inequality is fired and is powered by the history that is its frame of reference.  The wheel paints a picture, a landscape of swans and willows and fields of wildflowers, a pasture, for horses, stabled far away from here.  For now.
The museum is open seven days a week, here to remind us of Yankee ingenuity and settler pride, cross-country. America has a weal of wealth in her stories of Truth and satisfaction, beauty and the beast, a knowledgeable person will know.  Go where your heart leads you, and remember the Alamo.  Rent a car and discover!  Bon voyage!
And so we have the three wheels; wheel, weal, and l’huile, and we need to connect them to slavery and racial inequality, perhaps l’huile says it best with the French word for “oil.”  Rape oil is derived from the seeds of the rape plant.  It’s true.  It is beautiful.  It’s true and who knew this before?   Walk out the door, it’s beautiful outside.
“Some sunny day!”

JAN. 2017

The Red Huile Barrel

                                                             --After William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red huile*                                    *French for oil, like rape-seed oil

glazed with rain

beside the white

Notes:  I imagine the barrel as Texaco red, with the lone star in white.  
The oil is canola oil, yellow, golden yellow.  Like the yolk of Amy Beeder's famous egg.
William Carlos Williams penned "The Red Wheelbarrow" before Elizabeth Bishop
wrote her poem, "The Fish" with its celebration of machine oil in the bilge 
of the tiny boat. Both Americans are important in understanding the French master...