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Hardly Seen


By Gene Grabiner

At Jefferson's home, the slave quarter
foundations along Mulberry Row hide

from his backyard Winding Lawn. Our docent
doesn't mention such humble places. She
must be prompted by a question.
Cook slave Edithe Fossett's
cave-room held eight of her children.
It swims beneath my feet on the South Terrace.

The great man
is buried in the fenced, locked
family plot; an obelisk
guards the memory
of the Declaration's author.

the parking lot this open dirt patch
framed by a wood rail fence, slave cemetery.
The plaque:

"...[S]lave cemeteries were the first black institutions
in America."

Next day, late morning at the hotel.
Most guests are out, beds get tossed.
The familiar cart with towels, refuse bags, cleaning tools.

And there, just so briefly whisking in, about
the empty rooms -- housecleaning,
like two dark ghosts, this man and this woman at work.

GENE GRABINER will be the featured reader at 4 p.m. today for Poetry Night at the Woodlawn Diner, 3200 Lakeshore Road in Blasdell. A University of California at Berkeley-educated scholar, he teaches sociology, American history and Honors classes at Erie Community College-City Campus.