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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Carolyn Gage

About Place Journal, Volume II Issue I

Survivor Tree

Over a period of twenty years, hundreds of residential students at the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf on Mackworth Island were subjected to physical and sexual abuse. When the scandal came to light in 1981, the victims told stories of being stripped naked, tied up, and hung until dawn from a tree outside the farmhouse that was the home of the school administrator. The tree, a symbol of their torture, was ritually cut down decades later by the adult survivors.

And here they come, the victims—
Here they come, survivors.
This is something they have planned
For a long, long time.
Naked as larvae, pink, twisting under the island moon—
Suspended like cocoons, they hung down from my branches,
Deaf as I am mute—
It was a long time ago.
And now they come,
With memory sharp as axes
Whetted on the grindstone of denial.
They come to kill,
As I have always known they would.
Copyright 2012 Carolyn Gage
Carolyn Gage is a playwright, performer, director, and activist. The author of nine books on lesbian theatre and sixty-five plays, musicals, and one-woman shows, she specializes in non-traditional roles for women, especially the stories of survivors of sexual abuse. She won the 2011 Maine Literary Award in Drama from the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and her collection of plays The Second Coming of Joan of Arc and Selected Plays won the Lambda Literary Award in Drama, the top LGBT book award in the US. All of her books and plays are available online at


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