It’s five below and the metal meter
is cold and ravenous. Swallows every last
nickel, dime, prized quarter my numb fingers
can dig up. I’m buying time
for breakfast with friends at Salem’s Gulu Café,
scrounging for coins and channeling
the opening scene from Cool Hand Luke—
Paul Newman cutting the heads off parking meters,
swigging liquor straight from a bottle.
Witch City. Witch anything and everything—
endless Halloween, trials and hangings on repeat.
I hate these cold New England winters. I hate parking
meters and the kitschy way Salem celebrates
the tragedy that put it on the map.
I say hex on that. Call it for what it was: murder.
Today I heard that my state is suing
the Sackler family, those rich patrons of the arts,
who pushed the miracle of OxyContin
and conjured the opioid epidemic.
How Mass General, Harvard, Smithsonian took their money
named wings and galleries: Sackler.
I think of the tragedy of spectral evidence—
What the Salem witch trials got wrong in the name of devil
may the Attorney General of Massachusetts get right.
Today, the devil dwells
in that gritty Salem apartment building beside the city lot
where I stand slipping my last cold coin into the meter—
where a young man,
still a boy really, in blue T-shirt hangs
out a third-floor window, doubled over, retching,
under a spell he can’t break, a kind of barren morning.
Cindy Veach is the author of Gloved Against Blood (CavanKerry Press), named a ‘Must Read’ by The Massachusetts Center for the Book. Her poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day Series, AGNI, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore and elsewhere.
Photo by Pavel Chusovitin