Message from the Free Smiths of Louisa County

You ask why we didn’t register as required
why we failed to appear before the Provost Marshal
why we avoided the courthouse, the census, the bank.

You ask where we sheltered while battles seethed
where our mothers gave birth, in which hidden houses
& why we didn’t register as required.

While so many perished in other counties
or raged with Nat in Southampton, how did we manage?
We avoided the courthouse, the census, the bank.

Whatever we had, we held. Whatever we knew
we told no one who counted. We kept back
our names. We didn’t register as required.

When you search for us now, you find silence.
You may trace us back to a moment. No further.
We avoided the courthouse, the census, the bank

with its clock, tracking everyone’s time but our own.
We chose inward passages. We kept deep counsel.
We didn’t register as required, which disappoints you.
Why do you trust the courthouse, the census, the bank?