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  • Tambourine Tommy
  • Thomas Sayers Ellis (bio)

More man Than myth, more myth Than freak, he would come out, Between bands,

In a harness of bells And high-waters, Held together and up By a belt of rope.

His skin was thick As friendship, his spotlit scalp Clean as the repaired dome Of the US Capitol.

Rickety raw And rickety strong, He’d run from Barry Farms To Mount Vernon

With bricks Borrowed from the wall Around St. Elizabeths In each hand.

There was struggle In his dance, Like first-of-the-month Or Election Day downtown.

His arms tried to Free Terrance Johnson, His trickster legs Rayful Edmond.

But such drama Never made him more Than spectacle or more Than beast.

No one thought Of him as artist, No one thought Of him as activist.

His craft, the way He beat himself (head, shoulders, knees And toes), proved he

Was one of us, A soul searcher Born and raised In the district,

Proved he Could reach in, Blend, ease before entering, Proved he

Was our phoenix, Nobody’s Stonestreet, Part hustler, part athlete, Tougher than all of Southeast.

Works by Thomas Sayers Ellis

  • • Tambourine Tommy

  • • Fatal April

  • • The Market


Thomas Sayers Ellis

Thomas Sayers Ellis is studying for the M.F.A. degree in creative writing at Brown University. His work has appeared in a number of periodicals, including Agni, The Kenyon Review, Southern Review, The Harvard Review, and Ploughshares. He is a co-founding member of the Dark Room Writers Collective and co-editor of On the Verge: Emerging Poets and Artists, an anthology.


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