“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
speech.

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
light.
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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