Tag Archives: 1850s

Two Sonnets: Washington Island’s Black Community

by Thomas Davis

Like Moses in the Wilderness

Like Moses fleeing from the Pharaoh’s wrath
Before the miracle of waters parting,
The Preacher blazed a trail on freedom’s path
As fear possessed their endless fleeing.
What was that man or woman really seeing
That passed them while they tried to run and hide?
What accident of fate would send them running
When slavers found them tired and terrified?
The Preacher prayed away grim miles and tried
To make their spirits testify that dreams
Are greater than the fear that crucified
Their faith that they could get across the streams
And past the towns that blocked their way and threatened
To let the slavers pounce and leave them bludgeoned.
The Bridge that was a Wall

The bridge, inside the night, was like a wall,
Small, wooden, unassuming, houses dark
Beside a path that seemed to be a call
To all who needed passage to embark
Upon a journey to the river’s other side.
They hid in brush, mouths dry, dread strong enough
To make them sick, and, silently, wide-eyed,
Saw spectres armed with whips and iron cuffs
Stand shining where they’d have to cross the bridge
Without disturbing dogs or waking up
The people in the houses as the ridge
Beyond the river beckoned past the interrupt
That stood between their anxious dreams and where
Their breaths would feel God’s freedom in the air.

These two sonnets continue the long series that tells the fictional story of the people of a black community that actually lived on Washington Island in the 1850s before unexpectedly disappearing. Two sonnets from this series were posted earlier.


Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis

The Abandonment of Washington Island By the Island’s Black Community in the 1850s

A French Sonnet

by Thomas Davis

Gone. Like the waves grasshoppers make
Before a boy who runs into a field of weeds,
The news raced through the island as the seeds
Of mystery began to reawake
The sense that something sinister, a snake,
Is in the emptiness that almost pleads
To hear the shouts of children, men whose deeds
Had made glad days of freedom by the lake.

Where did they go? Why did they have to flee?
The island people said, “It is a mystery.”

When Craw’s barn burned, the chill was palpable,
And now the black community is gone.
The news was like a fire, insatiable;
They took their fishing boats and fled at dawn.

The mystery of the disappearance of seven black families, presumably run-away slaves, from Washington Island in the 1850s still persists today.


Filed under poems, Poetry, Thomas Davis, Uncategorized