They say you changed, you defected—
joining the ranks of the county’s Anti-Slavery Society.
But you stood tall, as your name suggests,
committed to your conviction, regardless of any whipping words,
at least that’s what I’ve gathered so far.
Indeed, there were others before and after, and
there will continue to be others, as has always proved true,
but I take heart, knowing you stood on this soil, this ground, this place
where opinions don’t melt away with the winter’s hard grasp,
where progress sometimes seems stilted, staked sure and strong.
And yet, you existed—I’ve read about you
taking tentative steps, slowly, until some breakthrough,
where the light touches the page in a new way, and suddenly
you’re reported as being a “Conductor” on the Underground Railroad,
through Pennsylvania, through Montrose, moving fast and faster.
I wrote this poem several years ago when I had assigned my 11th grade English class, after a few weeks studying Walt Whitman, the task of writing a poem in his style and about his themes. I wanted to provide a model, and I was able to pull together this poem. The draft came quickly, as many of my poems do, but I revised and revised. I remember sitting in the ISS room at the high school doing research about the Underground Railroad in Montrose, Pennsylvania, and this person, Isaac Post, kept rising to the surface as I read article after article. Now, of course, I know so much more about Isaac Post, and I’ve consumed so many things about him, both secondary and primary documents. Just recently, I posted some of that information in an article about his big decision to put a resolution to his congregation in support of full and immediate emancipation of American slaves.
As I look back at this poem, which I included in my collection of poems about Montrose, Public Avenue, I’m struck by the imagery of the line, “where opinions don’t melt away with the winter’s hard grasp.” We’ve had such a snowy winter, and even now as I look out over the county and Montrose, I still see evidence of those opinions that still haven’t melted away after the election in November.
At the time of Post’s change in his position on slavery, he took a hard position for greater equality. He asserted that Black Lives Matter. And his courageous decision to bring this to the Bridgewater Baptist Church congregation as a church resolution put him on the front line of this issue of “liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness” for everyone. And it wasn’t easy, because the resolution passed by just a hair, further reminding me of these current times we are living through; consequently, the congregation split into two factions, one staying with Post and the other following Elder Dimock. History, however, has proven that Post was on the right side, and Elder Dimock eventually made the decision to reunite his congregation with Post’s group that had held true to the ideals of The Declaration of Independence. It’s such an amazing story of personal integrity, faith, and persistence.
As the snow melts away in Northeast Pennsylvania, it’s my hope that some these staunch opinons will as well. I remain hopeful that people will take their signs down. That this division shall too pass into the distant past. It’s time for us to heal. To reunite as a country and hold hands with our neighbors in solidarity that when Black Lives Matter, we’re really saying that All Lives Matter.