Sam Sewall and the Salem Witch Trials
I took several courses on Puritan literature at university as well as several poetry writing courses. As a result, I wrote a poem about the Salem Witch Trials. I forget about it for long stretches of time. Then, something brings it to mind. Like this article called Are you a good witch? Sewall was the only judge at the Salem Witch trials to publicly apologize for his role.
There was a warning on that summer day,
a little oblique perhaps, but still a warning.
A crazy Quaker woman, her hair and dress askew,
face painted black as the devil's ass,
shitting on the floor of the meeting house.
Cotton Mather in the pulpit closed his eyes
and whispered. A sign.
Smthered on the judges' bench and feeling Hathorne's bulk
pushing against you. You catch your breath
and begin to believe it's true.
But then, again, you think, Rebecca Nurse?
When it was only yesterday --
it seems like only yesterday --
she offered you a glass of canary and bounced a grandchild on her knee.
But Ann Putnam screams;
someone is pushing pins into her.
The other girls scream and point out witches
on the rafters, wizards in the courtyard.
They point and scream. You! You! And you!
What can you say when the next defendant
turns deaf and dumb in the box?
A sign. A sign.
You want to believe
it's not up to you to say anything
or do anything. Just listen:
to the hangman's drop
to pale women dying.
Hathorn smiles and lets his gavel fall
where it it will.
The crowd turns to you crying in one voice,
Guilty. Oh call them guilty!
You are ten years older,
kneeling in front of Old South in Boston,
only a day's ride away,
crying, you, too, are guilty.