top of page

Shadow Man
by Vernita Hall

Thomas Jefferson was a “shadow man...”  —  John Adams



Thomas Jefferson, you belonged in advertising:

a pitchman for tobacco, spinner of dreams,

a sculpted-prose-poseur of liberty.


Ghost writer for the Continental Congress:

when the crier read July Fourth of '76

in Philadelphia your florid creed


to four-fifths of the nation's population,

you’d missed the fine print:

Warning: slavery

could be hazardous to dignity.


Or did you temporize in dependence

on your colony of slaves, shackled to

a certain separate and unequal station?


Were you bound instead to your pursuit of happiness,

savoring your fine wines, your little mounts,

Monticello and mulatto Sally Hemmings?


Did you mark resemblance of her six children

to the six of your dead wife, or did you spin it,

hold this truth, too, as less self-evident?

Wine Glasses
bottom of page