The Lynching Postcard, Duluth, Minnesota

 

There is a postcard in an antique shop in Duluth

with a photograph of the infamous lynching of

a black man carried out in the town in the 1930s.

 

The owner was turned down by eBay when

he wanted to sell it there.  Tourists walk into

his shop and stare at the lone card in the glass case.

 

The owner says it is better to sell it

than donate it to a museum where

it would be locked away in a drawer.

 

Some people want it removed.

Others snicker and stare, shake their heads

and accept the fact this is “only Minnesota.”

 

Each morning, the shop owner glances

at the case to make sure the post-card is there.

Thousands have bowed over the glass.

 

At night, when the shop is closed,

the postcard lies in the case, the body hanging

in the cold moonlight from Lake Superior,

 

the shadow from the swinging body

forming a shape that rises through

the glass to darken the shop.

 

Over a dozen people come across it the following day.

They don’t know the act of bending over the glass

to study the dead body on the pole is forming

 

an invisible arc of light over time,

a shadow where those who bow to look

imitate the shape of a hanging tree.


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Ray Gonzalez is the author of ten books of poetry, including the recent Cool Auditor: Prose Poems (BOA Editions, 2009). He teaches in the MFA program at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.