I invited Jefferson Thomas* to speak
at our school. Jefferson Thomas told his stomach,
“Be ready to eat bullets.” Jefferson Thomas
walked on concrete sidewalks like water.
Jefferson Thomas spoke and cured seventy six cases
of ADHD for forty six minutes. Jefferson Thomas
made a girl cry. Jefferson Thomas made CNN
when he died. Jefferson Thomas spent his final years
living in Groveport, Ohio, my hometown.
Jefferson Thomas pitied the white folks
who cursed him. Jefferson Thomas was on TV
a bunch of times. Jefferson Thomas wore a blue suit.
Jefferson Thomas’s name’s written in books
and bronze. Jefferson Thomas. Jefferson Thomas. Jefferson Thomas. Jefferson Thomas.
Say it five times in the mirror in the dark
and white bedsheets in museum basements
and church attics will give up their blood,
horses throughout the South will refuse to show their teeth,
slivers of stained glass will rise from bomb ash
to form apostles, and a few more dead
will finally rest. In a country that wants
so badly to forget, justice is retirement for ghosts.
* Note: Jefferson Thomas was a member of the "Little Rock Nine," who were the first African American students to attend all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957.
Brian Michael Murphy is an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Champlain College, and an Instructor in The Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. His poems have been published in Birmingham Poetry Review, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, SLAB, and elsewhere. As a hip hop artist, he released the albums Manifest Destiny and Black Fire. Currently, he is writing a nonfiction book called We the Dead: Eugenics, Time Capsules, and the Preservation of Whiteness. He lives in Burlington, Vermont. Follow him @raisedbymovies