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Martha Vertreace-Doody's Poetry


Cousin Anna follows headlines like a field gull
peclcing worms, grubs after the farmer's plow
                               uproots moist earth. In March,
someone speaks of temperance, then does not pass the night
at the Dunlap House, noting
                     its refusal to seat Mr. Frederick Douglass
at the first table after his Springfield lecture, entided


The Assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, lifts a mirror to moonlight
so darkness cannot hide what lies
broken for years beyond us. Supremely ridiculous,
Cousin writes, to take offense,
saying she only eats bread baked and buttered
                                           among her own.


Come April, Mr. Douglass again
                   lectures in the Capitol. His topic:


Reconstruction after the Civil War.
Honored with high tea, then church with my Mary
ever at his side like a little girl
                               .trailing her mother's pinafore,
its sash undone, then a party, dinner graciously appointed


in china, crystal, silver, linen, lace.
Cousin next writes of her invitation,
                              her place on the left of the host;
Mr. Douglass, on his right. I call him Earthquake,
awakening the Mississippi Valley
                    like temblors swaying New York, shaking
bells in Washington City twice before I belong to Illinois.


Anna does not dine with him,
                     calls him—twice—in her first letter,
in the second—calls him the ungodly name
which my pen will not dignify.