I am called to the house of Goodman H.D.
to dress the whip marks on the his wife’s back.
The court ordered six stripes to her naked back
in a public display on the Palisado Green
as punishment for a voice too loud and harsh.
Standing at a distance, I saw the crowd
gather ‘round her small frame, men
with muskets ready, and women with glaring curiosity.
As they flogged her, her arms
fought bravely to cover her breasts.
Now the wounds have festered, angry red, and leaking
amber pus. I warm water and loosen
her shift’s ripped threads stuck deep in the whip’s
She bursts apart with tears.
Let them flow.
Cleanse that memory.
I pack her wounds with linen smeared
in calendula and goose fat.
It took courage
to endure such shame.
Oh, the sorrow’s pain we women suffer for
the same true voice that gives a man great glory.
Laura Secord earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Sierra Nevada College. A Pushcart nominee, her poems have appeared in The Birmingham Weekly, Arts and Understanding, The Southern Women’s Review, PoemMemoirStory, Passager, Indolent Books, Snapdragon, Voices of Resistance, and Burning House Press. She is the co-founder of Birmingham’s Sister City Spoken Word Collective and an editor of their anthology, Voices of Resistance. She has a lifelong commitment to women and the under-represented. Her novel-in-verse An Art, a Craft, a Mystery is a research-based history of her ancestors in seventeenth-century New England.