Yen Cress

Rookie (3/9/43 / San Francisco, California)

The Evil Of Salem (Sestina) - Poem by Yen Cress

Old Salem was a peaceful little town
In Massachusetts, set beside a hill.
Its people knelt to God in prayer each day,
To ask Him for forgiveness for their sin
And from temptation to deliver them.
'Twas thus till early Sixteen Ninety-One.

Among those righteous people there was one
Who was a stranger in that godly town.
Tituba, slave from islands far from them,
Had come to share their village by the hill.
She brought with her a darker kind of sin
Than anyone had seen before that day.

Surrounded by some girls one winter day,
Warmed by the fire, Tituba was the one
Who read their palms-and led them into sin.
Soon evil rumors raced throughout the town-
A horror darker than that shadowed hill.
Black magic-voodoo spells-Woe unto them!

A doctor checked the girls, pronouncing them
Bewitched! And following that fateful day,
A panic spread to reach beyond the hill.
Suspicious eyes were cast on every one
Who was the least bit odd, in that strange town.
To be eccentric was a deadly sin.

The townsfolk called them witches, cursed with sin,
And quickly moved to purge themselves of them.
They tried the victims in that dreadful town
For one whole year, day after shameful day.
They jailed a hundred fifty, one by one,
And twenty more they hanged on Gallows Hill!

What happened in the shadows of that hill
Where wives and daughters, innocent of sin,
Were punished when accused by anyone
Who bore resentment or a grudge toward them?
A truly evil thing began that day
When madness swept good sense from Salem town.

May we escape the sin that captured them,
And wisely judge each one, unlike that day
Below the hill when justice fled the town.

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Langston Hughes


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Poem Edited: Tuesday, April 12, 2011

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