In January 1863, 13 accused Union sympathizers were executed by a Confederate regiment in the Shelton Laurel Valley of Madison County, North Carolina. Having followed the Confederate soldiers to learn the fate of the men and boys who were taken, the women of the valley were caught and stripped of their clothing, tied and beaten, and hung by their necks until they were nearly dead.
The birds spoke slower, then,
the eyes of each bound girl unstoppable.
What became of us was a field,
roads submerged under a tale
of blue, the trees calling each starry
point a lion or a liar, a man pouring
water over heads. Across miles,
we counted leaves gripped low
beneath the storm, orange clouds
shaking the pulse of our throats.
When the last girl lost her center,
the music churning through the fall,
we retraced her steps until the hours
bled into snow, each backward glance
a moan unrecognized, the weather
a ceiling displaying the scene
of what happened, girl after girl
of seasons circling beyond return.