Mike Jenkins

Slave Currency


once empire of that metal,

precious as coal and iron,

as Rhondda to one

and Merthyr the other

ingots, cable and sheeting

smelted and carefully crafted,

a valley mapped by workings ;

companies growing with every ship

whose flags whipped above waves

but manillas, slave currency,

seem like bracelets

or good-luck horseshoes,

coins which clasped fast

and weighed out wealth

30 manillas =  one man :

from furnace-heat of African sun

to holds where they were rolled

and beaten and marked,

or thrown away like impurities

now these have lost their colour,

become dark as if tainted

by the hands that traded them

and resemble manacles,

blood staining away any shine.

(Swansea Industrial & Maritime Museum)

Mike Jenkins © 2013