What Really Happened . . .

Best friends, we met secretly.
Listened in awe to Tituba’s tales.
Barbados voodoo, fortune telling.
So exotic to our young minds.

Betty’s father ranted,
not just pulpit preaching.
Everyday damnation,
spirit squelching abuse.

We craved attention, excitement.
Anything but embroidery
peeling potatoes, praying,
tending garden and the hearth.

Betty and Abigail started it.
Twitching, talking in tongues.
Rolling on the ground,
petticoats be damned.

I joined them and we ramped it up.
Rolled and spit and drooled,
hiked our skirts over our heads.

Center of attention were we.
Eyes on us, tongues wagging,
What? What was he talking about?

Too late. We’d gone too far.
He demanded, WHO?

Scapegoat. We didn’t know that word.
But forced by his shaking
we had to pick.
God forgive them. Betty and Abigail did.

They had the limelight as they screamed her name.
Jealous I was. I craved their fame.
Sarah Good! I screamed.
God forgive me my pride.

Now, two hundred people accused
Thirty found guilty. Nineteen hanged.
Oh my God, what have we done?
Young girls turned miscreants
in a Puritanical world.


Day 25: National Poetry Writing Month. Toads asks us to write a poem in which we “take on the persona of someone from history; and we write in the first person – as if we are that person.”

I’ve chosen to write in the voice of Ann Putnam who was 12 years old at the time of the Salem Witch Trials. She was good friends with Elizabeth Parris (Betty) and Abigail Williams, the first two girls (ages 9 and 12 respectively) who accused Tituba of witchcraft, thus lighting the spark of the Salem witch trials of 1692. Betty’s father was Reverend Samuel Parris, Putitan minister in Salem and central figure in the witch trials. Tituba was his slave from Barabados who, it is known, shared many stories of her culture and voodoo practices with Betty and her young friends. This is, obviously, a fictional narrative, told in the voice of Ann, as to the origins of the paranoia that filled Salem, Massachusetts in these Puritan times.

4 thoughts on “What Really Happened . . .

  1. Sherry Marr April 25, 2020 / 7:18 pm

    SO well-told. I look at some of the rantings of limiting beliefs on facebook and it seems we havent come that far from those times. The witch trials were terrible. I love how you brought those girls to life. I could see them.


  2. Kerry April 26, 2020 / 4:38 am

    Those witch hunts seem to be a thing of fiction, looking back on them but the switch between reason and madness is all too close to the surface even in our times.


  3. sanaarizvi April 26, 2020 / 5:04 am

    This is so well done, Lillian! 💝 I love the tone, the pacing and intricate details which you have used to portray those times.


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