Belinda’s Petition: a Poem by Rita Dove

Belinda’s Petition

(Boston, February, 1782)
To the honorable Senate and House
of Representatives of this Country,
new born: I am Belinda, an African,
since the age of twelve a Slave.
I will not take too much of your Time,
but to plead and place my pitiable Life
unto the Fathers of this Nation.

Lately your Countrymen have severed
the Binds of Tyranny. I would hope
you would consider the Same for me,
pure Air being the sole Advantage
of which I can boast in my present Condition.

As to the Accusation that I am Ignorant:
I received Existence on the Banks
of the Rio de Valta. All my Childhood
I expected nothing, if that be Ignorance.
The only Travelers were the Dead who returned
from the Ridge each Evening. How might
I have known of Men with Faces like the Moon
who would ride toward me steadily for twelve Years?


“Belinda’s Petition” from The Yellow House on the Corner, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, Pittsburgh, PA. © 1980 by Rita Dove. Reprinted by permission of the author.