i am dead but i am not gone and departure is no longer in my sight because you wont let me flee or let me let myself stand up and walk across the water and i wont let you let me leave us all either because something more waits for me and for us but not you behind the veil that stole my voice and hid it away before i could catch it and hold it in my mouth but no tongue behind teeth means no words outside teeth until the tongue is no longer necessary in a world reversed by sea and words can walk freely but my words hide behind your eyes like lighting between chasms that no hands can grasp before it turns to liquid and slides out of your body like oceanwater falling from the earth into the sky where we all will be.

i belong nowhere inbetween two worlds of unknown and known unknown where survival falls after removal made by man but i am no man and never will be no matter how hard they try no matter how hard you try whether you like it or not because my name is lost and will never be found because iyouwe are determined to find it hiding in the earth that hangs in the sky that threatens to fall with every tear we dont cry and in my tears i dont cry not because i am not permitted but because my tears mix with the sea and become the salt of the earth and your tears too if you cry in sorrow for no one other than me and the rest of humanity who is everyone that glows blue inside from the shell of my soul beating amongst yours and hers and his until we together give birth to new love and new light and new hate and new happiness and new anger and new darkness to kill that darkness that wrapped its invisible grip around my neck to kill me because the sorcerer of that darkness who is more than just one claims greatness over others to mask its smallness which turns to emptiness when expanded.

i teach and am taught to love but love dissipates into the air from the sea in vapor to a point where love slips between my fingers but i hold onto it and i never relinquish those invisible treasures from between the folds of my skin because i know it and the love i am still able to project will be the only thing that saves the world when the world is lost and for that reason they hate that i hold onto it and can see it in my eyes just as i see in theirs a nothingness that awaits to be subsumed by the hatred that burns flames against water no matter which side they are on.

i lie under a mast and flag that fights another in a fight of language versus language and mast versus mast but no heart versus heart except our own which watch the smell of burning gunpowder sink into the air and feel the glint of iron collars emerge from decks and hear the sight of those figures who are recognized as bodies only after the fact launch into the water and turn to red in the wake of the sharks while they without hearts flee to the world which once was our world.


i become lamentations for those lost and pity for those not lost and i am not mentioned other than in a representation of a girl searching for her legs and another her right arm and a third the piece of body that once filled a hole of torn edges but where am i in those cries for liberty and grief and deliverance that do nothing more but steal us from one world and supplant us to liminality of existence within a space settled by the resettled.

life cannot be returned to a space destroyed.

i am alive in death and after death and whether i be named or nameless i will walk through the skies above your head to reach the heights that iron collars and iron leashes attempted to keep me from but never could from when the mast that claimed liberation was once the mast that claimed destruction to now because the wood remains the same because masts are of neither liberty nor despotism but rather are both engulfed in flames that never will and never were meant to be extinguished because the power of a new mast arises from the ashes of the one preceding it but no matter their efforts to set the world on fire when they claim our humanity but the eternal vapor in our skin strengthens us to slip between their grasp and rise above their paper legitimacy that eventually absolves all tyrants when they devour their own humanity where there is no more humanity in front of them to devour and even so we remain we survive we persist we reclaim our rights beyond the body.

to be numbers is not to be.

we sing in hidden voices.


Voyage ID: 2734

— Maxwell A. Gillmer ‘21’s column “Death Business” is an anthology of short stories, recounting fictionalized narratives inspired by true entries from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Each installment follows the story of a new individual — some named, some unnamed — on a different voyage from Africa to the Americas. This installment is based on the vessel “Vigilante” and the pamphlet “Case of Vigilante, A Ship Employed in the Slave Trade,” Voyage ID: 2734