Matt Miller

Hannah in Effigy

Though she’s all but forgotten today, Hannah Duston was probably the first American woman to be memorialized in a public monument… The mystery of why Americans came to see patriotic “heroism” in Duston’s extreme—even gruesome—violence, and why she became popular more than 100 years after her death, helps explain how the United States sees itself in world conflicts today….The idea of a feminized, always-innocent America has become the principle by which the United States has structured many interactions with enemy others.”—

Hannah Duston Monument by Calvin H. Weeks

But when I woke in stone my child
was nowhere nearer,

and Merrimack had dragged me back
to this atoll, this Boscawen.

My right hand holds the hatchet I used,
in my left the bouquet of flesh

I’d taken from their heathen heads.
It is said my captors taught me how.

Is it easier for you that they murdered her,
my Martha, broke her baby skull

against an apple tree, plucked my nipple
from her root? The truth? I recall bare feet

on ice but not the apple tree. I was distraught,
though, at least enough for slaughter.

And does the ledger still stand in my favor?
How do the scalps tally? How many

were too many, how many until God
becomes our enemy? I was mother,

marbeled down with milk in my breast.
That child was in me, my blood

still staunched by a napkin the night
my captors slept too deep.

I offer no apology, no justification
for their six children.

I was mother. I am mother, but no
matriarch to your concord of murder.

If you need to believe, if you need
my maternity, my femininity,

my goddess of liberty in your myth
of destiny, mouth of country,

will you forever let her head explode,
feel virtue in the long hair slipping wet

through my fingers? Will you question
why I collected on the bounty.


About the writer:
Matt Miller is the author of The Wounded for the Water (Salmon Poetry), Club Icarus (University of North Texas Press), selected by Major Jackson as the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize winner, and Cameo Diner: Poems (Loom). He has published work previously in Crazyhorse, Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Southwest Review, Florida Review, Third Coast, Adroit Journal, and Poetry Daily, among other journals. Miller is the winner of the Poetry by The Sea Sonnet Sequence Contest, the River Styx Micro-fiction Prize, and Iron Horse Review‘s Trifecta Poetry Prize. Miller has been awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Poetry and a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship in Poetry from Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

Image: Hannah Duston Monument by Calvin H. Weeks. 1879. Haverhill, Massachusetts.