Death of My Mother a Teacher of a One Room School
December, 1937, no heater in the car,
the blanket in the Model T for warmth
pulled over the heads of my sister and me.
The Klansmen stopped our car, banging
into it hard. The door flew open. They pulled
my mother out. She fought back.
They dragged her away. I heard her scream, Don’t touch
my children! Her cry, repeated, faded, muffled.
I heard a thump, a gasp, then silence.
The Klansmen had told us, Don’t look, don’t move.
My memory was lost at age 5 on that cold North Carolina day.
My next memory is of my dad lifting me
up to my mother’s casket to say good-bye.
It was placed in the parlor
of my grandfather’s home.
The Hanging Tree
Situated in the park near the picnic area
close to the side of the road, reminding
the people of its fury. Its strong limbs protruded
attached to a steel hoop to loop the rope.
Bark stripped off the trunk by the pulling
of the rope, the struggling of the victim.
A holiday is for the hangings, so
everyone, including the children,
can join in the celebration,
learning to carry out the tradition.
An accepted behavior, without conscience.
At night the tree looks like a ghost,
the shadows of death permeate
with images of the branches.
The Blacks are fearful of the area.
Whites are proud and picnic as the hangings occur.
They call it picnic, meaning “picking a nigger.”
Beatrice Vasser’s new book, The Color of Black, is forthcoming from MadBooks. She is the author of Circle of Life: Verses From My Journey. Her work has been published in Dionne’s Project, Vol. II and Voices from the Attic. She is a retired teacher, athletic director and professional counselor, and a member of the Madwomen in the Attic Writing Workshops at Carlow University.