I am in the room with these black
and white picture post cards – made
to share the lynching with faraway friends
or keep as a souvenir – sell
to a collector to frame and hang
and I am in the room, my heart
beats in my throat – each photo
depicts a new corpse – burned first,
whipped first, naked, handcuffed.
I want to look away, but to do so seems
strange cowardice, some denial
these noosed men don’t deserve.
My white face reflects in the glass,
complicit witness in the crowd.
Editor’s Note: The exhibit and book, Without Sanctuary: Postcards and Photographs of Lynching in America, are from the collection of James Allen and John Littlefield. I felt that the images were too shocking to display without warning here, but they are a part of American history we need to acknowledge and reckon with.
Katherine’s poetry has been published recently in Piscataqua Poems, Poet’s Showcase,Verse Osmosis and The Avocet. Coming of age in the 1960s, she has been active in anti-war and social justice movements. A lifelong teacher, she taught high school English, including women’s literature, American studies and peace studies. She is a co-editor and contributing essayist to Beyond the Notches: Stories of Place in New Hampshire’s North Country and Writing Process Revisited: Sharing Our Stories. The University of Iowa Press published her book My Ever Dear Daughter, My Own Dear Mother, a collection of 19th-Century letters. She lives and writes in the Seacoast of New Hampshire.