What Is "When in Rome" by Mari Evans?

What Is "When in Rome" by Mari Evans?

"When in Rome" is a poem written by African-American poet Mari Evans that is often taught in English classes. It is presented as a snippet of a one-sided conversation between a slave named Mattie and an unnamed character believed to be her owner.

In the verse, the owner is seemingly being the gracious benefactor by allowing Mattie to help herself to various food items. Mattie's dilemma is that while she does not like any of the foods being offered, she does not feel at liberty to voice her displeasure. The poem uses parenthetical asides to voice Mattie's true thoughts about the choices she is being offered.