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18th Century, Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, Uncategorized

A Poem About Thomas Jefferson’s Slave Lover by Mark Walston, appearing in the Hidden City Quarterly



Sally Hemings Sails to Paris



Moldboard plows and polygraphs,

scuppernong trellises redolent

with a heavy dark sweetness,

meticulous celestial observations

and a ledger of misbegotten

bound in bright leather.


Ardent in the spring arbor

liberty desires ripen

with iridescent irony –

love frees nothing but hatred

and enlightened lust leads

not to adoration but dependency.


Each extracted promise unkept

and ephemeral as chaff

flailed from winter wheat,

beaten to relinquishment,

surrender the frail secret

bearded with consequence.


The bow plows eastward,

plenipotentiary crossing

the middle passage fathomless.

Blue serge and white linen

pressing umber breasts

in a novel union of fluid and flesh.


So baptize the wine,

salute the democratic experiment

with a roused courtesan persuasion,

parlor provocateur, distractions

from a closely inscribed life

three-fifths enumerated.




About markwalston

Writer, historian, creative director, poet, playwright, author of nine books and nearly 200 essays and articles exploring a broad range of American social, cultural and historical topics.


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