(Mary Burton)

Some nights she lay in bed, fingernail
ridging up little paths of black glass
on the frosted pane: one way out,
but where? Work and more work stretched
like the ocean she'd sailed. But even the ocean
had an end. They called it Boston.

Bearing the master's child: a criminal offense.
She came alone to New York City,
indenture sold to Hughson. At his public house,
winter mornings she shattered ice
over the well, saw courtyard creatures stilled:
birds fallen, stray dog looped around
a nest of frozen pups. Blue-lipped,
she pulled the rope between her hands. 


Charlotte Holmes

Shannon EstlundCold Air (oil on canvas)

Poet's Commentary:

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.