When they said confession was the way
to salvation, the idea must have seemed
satisfactory: Embroider the cloth
they laid before you with scenes of a life
they were desperate to see. They needed
to add rust to the blades of the knives
your brothers would wield, removing
the heads of white gentlemen. Orange threads
gleam among gray threads, the shivs shaped
by the satin stitch creating a smooth
appearance, one thing resembling another—
thread become rust, become metal, become
truth difficult to pick out on linen
so white, so thin, so rotten with age.
These six poems are from a linked collection about the 1741 New York City Slave Conspiracy. In the trials, on the testimony of a single teenaged servant girl, over a hundred slaves were burned at the stake, hung, or sold to the West Indies.