PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
M. Wynn ThomasThe Other Side of the Hedge
(PN Review 239)
Next Issue Jason Allen-Paisant, Reclaiming Time: On Blackness and Landscape Tara Bergin, Five Poems Miles Burrows, Icelandic Journal Jonathan Hirchfeld, Against Oblivion Colm Toibin, From Vinegar Hill
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This poem is taken from PN Review 154, Volume 30 Number 2, November - December 2003.

An American Hero Stanley Moss


It wasn't all smell of Adirondack lilac
and flowering chestnut trees along Broadway
in the spring of 1824.
Human sewers, mostly Negroes, carried waste in tubs
at night to the Hudson and East Rivers, James Hewlett,
said to be an ex-slave, self-purchaser, ex-tubman -
once pedestrians could smell him from half a block away.
I pick his pocket. Ex-houseboy to English actors,
he leapt up like a wildcat - then like a witch
joined a Shakespeare theatre of ex-slaves,
billed himself 'Vocalist and Shakespeare's Proud Representative'.
I pick his pocket.
He played Richard the Third and Othello,
sang Il Barbieri, La Marseillaise, and 'O!
say not that woman's love is bought' in one evening.
In royal silks, Mr Hewlett recited:
...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image