after Maryse Condé

Tituba, the missing hollows of your story
echo within myths and shifting details.
Centuries later, you are imagined whole.
Your name means “to atone” in Yoruba.
The books say West Indian, Arawak,
Venezuelan, anything but African.

The charges accused you of poisoning
children. Even though rye flour
bears unseen fungus spoiling bread,
cakes, and children. We will not know
the count of lashes or blows, how often
you were slapped or dunked before
you said I am a witch. I serve the devil.

We know this: you were the first
to confess. You walked away alive.
You were bought from bondage, fled
Salem with John, birthed a daughter
named Violet. Papers prove all of that.
Historians and scholars require some
bread crumbs, but these papers let you
imitate ether in the night and disappear.

Tara Betts