Gabriel by J. Thomas Brown

Gabriel was a blacksmith who read of Haitian revolt,
how Toussaint Louverture defeated white Europeans
and threw off the shackles and yoke
On the Isle of Saint-Domingue, gone were pin and loop 

In his mind he must have been baffled
by the words Thomas Jefferson wrote:
that all men are created equal,
yet he was counted but three fifths of a man

In Gabriel’s vision of enlightened revolution,
if someone posed an impediment to freedom,
they would be put to death. Only 
Frenchmen and Quakers could be spared.
But he never foresaw the matter of floods, 
betrayal, and a pardon two centuries late

Betrayers told how his anvil rang like a church bell
as he beat the iron with his hammer, 
forging pikes into spears, sickles into swords,
how he wore out bullet molds

He was tried by a court of five planters 
whose arrogant hearts filled with fear
When they saw how well slaves plotted
they knew they had underestimated the man

Gabriel gave no names and accepted the blame
but told of his careful plan:
capture the armory, take hostage Monroe,
to deliver from bondage his sisters and brothers
and spread rebellion through the land

He rode on the tumbrel alone, 
hands bound behind his back,
a West Coast African slave 
steeped with the blood of Oonis
and no last name of his own
From the gallows in Shockoe Bottom 
they hung him. Quietly standing 
without a word, he accepted the noose, 
then, soul let loose, 
flew away on the wings of the wind.

* * * * *

J. Thomas Brown lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife and family. His short stories and poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. Other published works include two historical fiction novels, a patremoir, and a short story collection.


About Copperfield

Since 2000, The Copperfield Review has been a leading market for short historical fiction. Copperfield was named one of the top sites for new writers by Writer's Digest and it is the winner of the Books and Authors Award for Literary Excellence. We publish short historical fiction as well as history-based nonfiction, poetry, reviews, and interviews.
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