In 2008 Arts Council England invited poets to commemorate the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act by writing a poem on the theme of enslavement.

Jean 'Binta' Breeze is a writer and performer of international standing. An artist with a strong sense of place, she grew up in rural Jamaica and then lived and worked in Kingston, where she soon established herself as a key writer, performer and recording artist. 

Dream Time

Come to me softly in the night, my child
Come to me in my dreams
Come to me when my tears subside
And night can claim its sleep

I left you awake
In the early morn
To hunt for your naming day
For the feast we had planned in the village
And skins for the drums we would play

I travelled further from home
Than I had ever been before
Because I wanted the best for you
I wanted the spirits to come

When I heard the horn
That warned me of strangers
I was in an unknown land
Believe me, my son,
I ran to get home
But I was held in the steel of their hands

I was chained and marched
To the edge of the sea
Where I was packed in the hold of a boat
Sick and worn
I lost track of time
Till we arrived in this new found land

Now I work with my naked back to the sun
And the whips that crack my skin
The leaves of the cane are long and sharp
As we work from dawn into evening

Then comes the only peace, my son
A peace that waters my eyes
When I think of you
In your mother's arms
Thinking I must have died

The sunset comes around our shacks
And the fires cook our food
And I think of our village and my own land
And the tribe I left behind

So come to me softly in the night, my child,
Come to me in my dreams
Come to me when my tears subside
And night can claim it sleep

Many suns have set
Since I've been gone
And I think of how you've grown
Do you walk now
Do you talk now
Do you spell out your name
The one I chose for you
The one that told of the day you were born

Do you call for mama in the night
Do you still suckle on her breast
Does she whisper stories about me
Before she puts you down to rest

My first thoughts in the morning are about you
The way we would have played in the grass
I would have taken you to the river
I would have taught you how to swim
I would have made for you small arrows
And taught you how to hunt
I would have watched you growing tall and strong
As you would run to meet me in the evening

But now my days are broken
The machete scars my hands
A river's sweat pours off me
The sunlight has me blind

I've lost all hope of returning
I can't follow the trail across the sea

Sometimes in the darkening evening
I climb up the hill
And sit there looking out
How far away I am
I do not know

And even when my thoughts turn to running
To the mountains that I see up above
I know you won't be there, my son
I know you won't be there
There'll be no welcoming arms of your mother

So I stay here and brave the whips
Brave the hatred of the overseer
Brave the soil of the land we have to dig
But at least I can still be near the sea

Drinking in the spirits of the cane
Knowing my dreams are in vain

So stay close to home, my son
Do not go far when you hunt
These are the thoughts in my head
As I watch the sun dip a bloody red

Oh my son, how I want you to be free

So come to me softly in the night, my child
And I will come to you in your dreams
Come to me when the tears subside
And night can claim its sleep