Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2016  Vol. 15 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Noyes Academy, the Nation’s First Coeducational Integrated School, Canaan, New Hampshire, 1835

Between spruce-blue peaks and iced-shut lakes,
its clouds chipped from quartz, grouse
and goose snagging in its gusts—this milk-

and-honey town and all its lumber mills
began with just one man who drudged his things
in by himself, his provisions spilling,

salt and flour on snow, as he bumped his sled
over the rocks. That was seventy-some years
before the school set up, in the bend

of Mount Cardigan, abolitionist money
paying for each pane and slat.
White students trickled in from nearby.

Black students came from New York,
Boston, Providence, on steamboats;
they slept out on the decks,

in January, in woolen blankets
that their mothers packed. They’d learn,
for twelve dollars a year, mathematics,

geography, history, Latin, Greek,
sitting at new two-seater desks.
It took two days and ninety yoke

of oxen and three hundred men
and more than ninety coils
of chain and rope to pull it down,

to leave there not one board
upon a board. It was August,
they drank rum, it was one hundred

and sixteen degrees. The chains snapped,
the oxen balked, the ropes broke;
they went home for more chains and ropes and whipped

their teams until they budged. They couldn’t get it all.
They dragged what part they could into a swamp
and burned what part they couldn’t haul.  

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