Thomas Painter Ross

“beau présent” for my 2nd great-grandfather born in Mercer, Pennsylvania in 1843

Liberia, once described as “the terminus of the Underground Railroad,” was a 150-acre settlement established in Mercer by Thomas Painter Ross’ grandfather, Richard Travis, in 1825 for runaway people of color. To ensure the freedom of the entire community after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, Thomas Painter Ross and his brother, John, evacuated to Canada with maternal family, as they appear to have had no relationship with their father, and their mother, Catharine Ross (née Travis) died in 1848.


meet them in Ontario. son—

men mean pain.


                              roam North.


home: a man     torn past     a tree

in rope.   thorn: a mother’s ire.


name paints a person—

not me—a map. as soon as some


one terror eases, another

pair of men, in tatters, meet them.


memories stream.


some men mean.

same as throat can mean:


                        horns     roast     horse     post


time passes, as a man

sent to shoot someone’s son


passes, in the street. then—

it hums:


                       none    inanimate     teeth  



*first published in Yemassee Journal