Here are two contrasting poems by Esther Popel Shaw.
“April Passed My Way” is a gentle but bitter-sweet account of a fleeting romance.
“Flag Salute” is a searing denouncement of a lynching in Maryland. The poem weaves lines from the Pledge of Allegiance through the narrative of an atrocity.
You can learn more about the life of this poet here.
April Passed My Way
April passed my way, and Romance
Followed after to my door;
Lingered shyly, gently watchful
For my welcome; more and more
In her manner fascinating
As she held my eye
Standing at my doorway, waiting,
Anxious not to pass me by!
Romance came, along with April,
And I let her in;
Shared with her my hearts deep secrets
And, to my chagrin,
Off she slipped and, when she left me,
Stole my treasures all away!
Romance came and went with April!
There is nothing more to say.
I pledge allegiance to the flag
They dragged him naked
Through the muddy streets,
A feeble-minded black boy!
And the charge? Supposed assault
Upon an aged woman!
Of the United States of America
One mile they dragged him
Like a sack of meal,
A rope around his neck,
A bloody ear
Left dangling by the patriotic hand
Of Nordic youth! (A boy of seventeen!)
And to the Republic for which it stands
And then they hanged his body to a tree,
Below the window of the county judge
Whose pleadings for that battered human flesh
Were stifled by the brutish, raucous howls
Of men, and boys, and women with their babes,
Brought out to see the bloody spectacle
Of murder in the style of ’33!
(Three thousand strong, they were!)
One Nation, Indivisible
To make the tale complete
They built a fire —
What matters that the stuff they burned
Was flesh — and bone — and hair —
And reeking gasoline!
With Liberty and Justice
They cut the rope in bits
And passed them out,
For souvenirs, among the men and boys!
The teeth no doubt, on golden chains
About the favored necks of sweethearts, wives,
And daughters, mothers, sisters, babies, too!