“Testimony: He Or His Apparition”

From Three Poems by Nicole Cooley:

Testimony: He or His Apparition

About noon, at Salem, Giles Corey was press’d to death for standing Mute. — Samuel Sewall, Diary, September 19, 1692

The girls’ testimony is gravel scattered on the grass.

Ann Putnam: Giles Corey or his Apperance has most
greviously afflected me by beating pinching and almost
Choaking me to death

Inside the meetinghouse each afflicted girl repeats the next.

Mercy Lewis: I veryly beleve in my heart that Giles Cory
is a dreadfull wizzard for sence he had ben in prison he
or his Apperance has come and most greviously
tormented me

The copier flattens the page, hammers down identical

Sarah Bibber: I have ben most greviously affleted by giles
Cory or his Appearance

But the man won’t speak to defend or plead. He sits still and
silent in his pew.

Mary Warren: At the time of his examination I saw: s’d
Cory or his appearition most: dredfully afflect: Mary
Walcot An putnam. Mercy lewes & Sarah Vibber

The morning of his execution: the meetinghouse floods with
Outside a circle rises around the punished man:
the magistrates pile stone after stone on his ribs to crush
him into speech.

Nobody can see the lesson: nothing can drive the voice
out of the body.

Cooley’s collection of poems all inspired by the Salem Witch Trials is The Afflicted Girls.

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