the picnic

Dorothy Summers


on august 7, 1930, thomas ship and abram smith were lynched in marion, indiana for killing a white man and raping his companion.  one man was guilty; the other was innocent



she grins.  a woman with gray hair.

she could be a grandmother.


a young couple smile.

the woman wears

a short-sleeved dress.

she touches hands with

her boyfriend.


they are framed on the left

and right by more faces

with shining teeth.

there are men dressed

in white shirts, hats and suits.


one man beams as he

points with pride

to the dangling bodies

of  thomas ship and abram smith.

other men talk about

the night’s work

and justice delivered.


the camera catches a full

frame of people some standing

under the corpses, staring

at the earthly remains

of young men

denied a jury trial.


all want this night

   to be captured,

      for they want a copy of the

         photograph for the

             family album.

a city in the heartland

Dorothy Summers


this is the story of james cameron.  the time is august 7, 1930.

the place is marion, Indiana.


“cameron, cameron!”

they chant my name like

adoring fans.


water runs down my leg.

pain rips my body

from the countless

blows and kicks.

my blood is ice.


through glazed eyes,

I see my companions just hang.

a crowbar pokes

through a chest.


“cameron, cameron.”

the noose slips over my neck.

a hush settles the mob.


there in the quiet,

from somewhere in the air,

a voice sounds.

“take this boy down,

he had nothing to do with… killing

or raping.”

at first, a few shouts echo their song.

next hundreds pick up the ring of truth.

the rope loosens

and they half-carry me back to jail.


my body heals,

but i get four years…

the charge of manslaughter…

the killing of a white man.


   i was only 16... and innocent.


Dorothy Summers studied poetry at IUPUI in Indianapolis.  Formerly she worked as a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Army and as an editorial assistant.  She has published poetry in Flying Island and news and feature stories in national Army magazines and in newspapers in Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois.