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valentine for Sally Hemings
there’s a dead jefferson in every black girl’s belly,
an unknown hunger for something stolen.
i found a poem in these parts, in the belly of a black girl.
i was told to look in the garage,
into the person i almost liked,
at the bottom of an odd blue sock buried
in my dresser drawer:
the hiding places of my life.
oh, but if you only knew
the way I wanted to love the dead president,
rescue him from the depths of a stomach,
feed him the warm soil from a Virginia plantation,
feed him pages from my history books,
heavy with lies.
but then i heard Sally scream,
and wondered what she’d think of me,
i heard Sally scream
and wondered what all the black girls
with bloated bellies would think of me
in my confusion:
the way i mistaked his breath, smelling of lavender and france,
when this scent was made of more potent stuff,
of a black girl’s blood against white sheets.
i went looking for a poem
in the darkness,
a love poem for Sally,
a dead man haunting the hallways
of a breaking girl.
Sojourner Ahebee is one of this year’s National Student Poets. The National Student Poets program, presented byThe President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, is the country’s highest honor for youth poets. Ahebee attends Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, where she majors in Creative Writing. Born in Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa, her hometown is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.