From Issue 23: "Family Meditation (after Jacob Lawrence's John Brown Series, #13)" by Andy Fogle (poetry)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

"Family Meditation" debuts in Issue 23 of Tahoma Literary Review. I was struck by the beautiful construction in this ekphrastic poem before I looked up the Jacob Lawrence painting it responds to. Like the painting, the poem has a clarity of line and form. It pulses with the presence of others and their connection across time. I was keenly aware of the painter, the poet, the sleepless daughter, and of John Brown. The poem recognizes that our responsibility to others, our place among others, is as intimate as our own familial bonds. 

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Jessica Cuello
Poetry editor


Family Meditation (after Jacob Lawrence's John Brown Series, #13)                                                                

Andy Fogle


My sleepless daughter watches me

from the dark. I study the map, 

she studies me (I am part

of her map). Our silence watches


each other’s, until I speak

without looking: As one lamp can light 

a room—the oil lamp’s chimney shade

tapers as it rises, then flares one last


time near the top. Where the black cross 

becomes itself (like all of us, 

at intersections), where one 

line is bound to another, 


a nail-head the color of sun. 

The Bible’s pages are red-edged: 

in it, in the map, in the fireglow, 

I begin to read my place.   


Reprinted with permission of the author

Fogle had this to say about his piece:

I’ve been writing a book of poems related to John Brown since spring 2021, when I received an Individual Artist Grant from Saratoga Arts to begin doing so. Part of the project is made up of ekphrastic poems responding to Jacob Lawrence’s “The Legend of John Brown” print series, which he reproduced in 1977 in Seattle, based on gouache paintings he had made in 1941 in Harlem, but had become too fragile to exhibit. “Family Meditation” is based on #13 in the series, the caption of which reads, “John Brown, after long meditation, planned to fortify himself somewhere in the mountains of Virginia or Tennessee and there make raids on the surrounding plantations, freeing slaves.” It also incorporates a little bit of information from Gwen Everett’s “John Brown: One Man Against Slavery” (1993) which is from the point of view of Brown’s daughter Annie. 

Andy Fogle is the author of Across from Now and seven chapbooks of poetry, including the forthcoming chapbook Arc & Seam: Poems of Farouk Goweda, co-translated with Walid Abdallah. 

Website:, Instagram@ foglejunk