At the Threshold
Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Memorial
Slabs of worn stone, inscribed—
For my life now lies in your hands
Gray slabs that do not touch
On my dying day, I am no witch
Where their words slide under
If I would confess I should save my life
I do plead not guilty
Before the mute tombstones
God knows I am innocent
Where the tourists mill
I am wholly innocent of such wickedness
And pose for selfies
Oh Lord help me—
Source & Method
Lines in italics are taken from the Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Memorial, Salem, MA.
“The memorial consists of 20 granite benches surrounded by a low stone wall. The stone slabs in the entryway to the memorial are inscribed with the victim’s protests, which were taken directly from the court records. The Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Memorial attempts to give form to concepts of injustice…The designers approached the idea of injustice through four words: Silence, Deafness, Persecution and Memory. To represent silence, they graded and organized the site to emphasize the surrounding tombstones as mute watchers looking into the memorial. For deafness, they inscribed the historical protests of innocence on the entry threshold and had them slide under the stone wall in mid-sentence. For persecution, they planted black locust trees, from which the accused believed to have been hanged. For memory, they enscribed the names, dates, and manners of death on stone slabs, which were then cantilevered from the stone wall as benches.”
Kennedy, Alicia and Sheri Olsen, Theresa Morrow. The Best of Cutler Anderson Architects. Rockport, 2008.
Cindy Veach is the author of Gloved Against Blood (CavanKerry Press), named a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize and a ‘Must Read’ by The Massachusetts Center for the Book. Her poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, AGNI, Prairie Schooner, Michigan Quarterly Review, Diode and elsewhere.
Photo by Johnny Cohen