I took a great deal of liberty with this poem. As the letter included with “Cry Holy” shows, Bill appears to have been a very young child at the time of his death. Texanna was probably a teenager, and she died two years later than Bill. But for this poem, I decided to make Bill and Texanna peers, both in age and in a shared love for music, and to have them die of an unknown contagious disease which, like their humanity, they shared, and which like their humanity, their parents recognized only in the white child.
Adeline believed Bill died from eating too many muscadines (wild grapes native to the southeast). It is not out of the question that Bill actually did have a regulatory issue. Prader-Willi Syndrome, for example, can lead to life threatening over-eating if food is not locked away. Still, the letter displays contempt for the child’s mother and lack of confidence in her ability to care for him. That their enslaved workers took a different view of their handling of the situation is evidenced in these lines, which I could not work into the poem, “We have had some complaint among the Negroes, but nothing very serious.”
Two letters are included below. One discusses Texanna’s progress in piano lessons, the other her early death. Absalom and Adeline had lost two other daughters only a few years earlier, which may explain the matter-of-fact tone in Absalom's letter. Or stoicism may have just been his character. Had the letter come from Adeline, it would certainly have been much more emotional.
References in these letters also include some hints to the story of Fanny and John's separation. Adeline's references to her grandson "Tommy" must hark back to the time that Fanny had left her husband and was living in Mississippi. But the suggestion that Mrs. Little might come with Fanny for a visit suggests that the Little and Myers families were close at the time of the letter.