“Polly… certainly believed that [Samuel] would make a fine companion. Unfortunately for fifteen-year-old Polly, her father thought otherwise… His plans came to naught, however, when the two young lovers eloped in 1796… Andrew and Rachel Jackson had been happy to assist Samuel and Polly in eloping…” – Old Hickory’s Nephew: The Political and Private Struggles of Andrew Jackson Donelson by Mark R. Cheathem
The grass sank between
the soles of my sandals
while we passed under the fences
like playing a game of limbo
trespassing into history
Daniel Smith’s castle
crafted from limestone
glistened in the moonlight
and the shore of Old Hickory Lake
sang to us, despite being outlaws.
We cited lines
from Tennessee storytelling
recalling the time
that Sam Donelson
and Andrew Jackson crossed
the summer humidity shallowing the waters
enough for horses
to trot across them.
The cool Tennessee air kissing the backs of their necks
while slivers of moonlight
illuminated their trail.
We wondered aloud
how the ladder must have sounded
as it brushed up against Polly Smith’s windowpane
how she grasped on to tree branches,
splinters piercing the palms of her hands
while climbing down
to the grass we stood on.
How the trio galloped to Hunter’s Hill,
against the light of the morning sun,
a priest waiting earnestly
to affirm their elopement.
We walked to the family cemetery,
protected by stone walls
eroded by time and tourists’ touch.
Behind the unlocked wrought-iron gate,
tombstones like chess pieces
marking each white body
encased in the slave-tilled earth.