Female Authors, For Readers, History, Thought of the Day Wednesday
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The Yellow Children of Monticello by Pam Ward      

The Yellow Children of Monticello

for my cousins, descendant of Sally Hemmings

 

Before Roosevelt

Way before J.F.K.

Before Clinton claimed, “I Did Not Have Sex!” on tv.

Before Monica Lewinsky tripped & forgot to wash her dress.

Thomas Jefferson was banging out tots like a fiend.

Making a banquet out of Sally Hemmings’ body

he created more kids than he could track.

Jefferson kept his black children under lock & key

all while singing “Oh Say Can We See.”

All his pickaninnies, tall and skinny

looked exactly like him

and nobody blinked

nobody batted a lash

seeing these yellow children of Monticello

springing everywhere like weeds.

They heard Thomas’ cry for freedom

turn into bedroom deceits.

They watched their father,

a boll weevil, feast on fresh drawls

like a cotton gin separating seeds.

And when they realized he would never, never,

never, never, never, never, never, set them free

they read his Declaration of Independence

they waited for a harmony of coughs

they watched this ‘Apostle of the Constitution”

and willed bronchitis to drum his lungs

they sang hymns to bring on fever

yearned for heart attacks or stokes

anything to take his last breath.

But Jefferson lived & lived & lived & lived & lived & lived.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” he said.

For his yellow kids,

this was just a long-winded speech.

people applauded

people lauded him a saint

people ignored his children in chains.

Only when slavery began its Swan Dance

unraveling like a hem, did Jefferson finally relent.

At last, while on his deathbed,

before he peacefully died in his sleep

Jefferson & Sally Hemmings’ kids were released.

But wait! Stop the presses!

Maybe it didn’t happen like that at all!

Maybe Sally was fed up with laundry, sex and lies.

Sick of the broken promises, maybe Sally finally snapped

like an overseer whipping a child’s back.

Maybe Sally had to go “all Monica” on them all.

She wouldn’t be the first to topple a president.

Plantation life takes its toll.

So maybe Sally took out Jefferson herself

having that one final pillow-talk at last.

 

Pam Ward

 

Credit goes to author Pam Ward @pamward

 

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