The master made them whistle as they brought
the supper plates up the back stairs to where
his family dined. They carried steaming pots
of coffee, biscuits, soup tureens mid-air
on silver trays, and balanced platters piled
with ham, baskets of cornbread, bowls of rice
along their forearms, whistling all the while.
One meal took several trips. Buckets of ice
were called for, fruit pies, sarsaparilla floats.
Their arms were full, the flight of stairs was steep,
and still they whistled with each step — their odes,
epics and psalms, their hymns and elegies —
and carried them with tea and lemon squares
up the long broken alphabet of stairs.