A poem by Gale Rasin on the anniversary of the lynching of James Taylor, a 23-year-old Black man who was hanged from a maple tree by a white mob in Chestertown, Maryland on May 17, 1892.
“Whatever may be said about the provocation, the stigma will rest upon our county for many years.”
— Chestertown Transcript, May 19, 1892
I smother myself in the lemony
intoxication of a magnolia
on the courthouse green in my native town,
its 1860 brick worn with memory.
Once there was a jail next door; we escape
only through our myths and forgetfulness.
May 17, 1892: James Taylor
waited in cell eight for the mob to come.
They is goin’ to kill me I reckon.
His last words — I am an innocent man.
Armed, masked in justice, with a sledgehammer
for the door, the horde seized him: strung him up.
The burden of history is too great
a weight for a young maple and for me.
Published with permission of the author