(July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955)
I would say rest in peace
but you are in pieces.
Your mother requested an open casket at your funeral
and we saw where fish nibbled at your flesh
and where your smile turned into a shriek
and how scared you must have felt that day.
You were nothing but a boy
and away from home
but I know now that it happens everywhere
that many like you are wrongly murdered
only the circumstances are a little different
and we have flown through several calendars
The only thing that has supposedly changed
not civil rights;
One amendment cannot undo teachings
especially if the “truth” is not fully true.
What does the south say about you?
How are you painted?
I read that there were pictures of white women in your wallet
but that was a ruse.
I read that you did more than just whistle at her.
I read that you were a good boy.
I read that you were wronged
and I’m sorry even though it’s not my fault.
Oh Emmett Till
You were neither the start nor the finish
of the race to control and berate black men
I just wish you didn’t have to be a martyr
and I wish I could learn
what was behind that 100 watt smile.
i didn’t know about rubber bullets
or how to make makeshift gas masks
mike brown’s body boiling
four and a half hours
face down, hands up, and bloody
in the middle of the street.
justice never required six warning shots into your back
there is no such thing as protocol anymore
when it comes to black people.
our protests are peaceful
chanting arm in arm
hand in hand
hands up don’t shoot
while our tea is getting laced with tear gas.
babies hit by flashlights and night sticks
beanbags disfiguring eye sockets
one black body
(we aren’t anything but),
clothes hanger, worker, rap god
every 28 hours murdered
313 a year
once dead, they are vilified, lied about, spat on.
lady liberty is hanging her head in shame
her torch has blown out
shoulders slumped over
and she wants to go back to France.
do not tell my boys they need to pull their pants up or wear a belt.
do not tell them to be peaceful.
king wore a suit and he still fell from his throne at lorraine.
grandma margo’s bowl
into a hundred pieces
rushing to work one morning
bumped into the white cart
sent it flying and stepped
over it rushing for lesson plans
and copies and clothes
things that don’t matter
not in the grand scheme of things
but grandma’s bowl broke
and i didn’t have time to weep
at the funeral; i didn’t go
so i wept for the bowl
and the mashes potatoes i had
and will no longer have
filling the bowl
that’s all i used it for
and when i made it just right
it tasted like hers
i wept for my grandmother
and for not saying goodbye
for not coming back
for breaking the piece of her
that wasn’t supposed to break
Ashley Elizabeth is a 20-something year old poet from Baltimore who draws inspiration from her city, her people, her space, and her body. Ashley is an advocate of women’s rights, accessibility of the arts, and education. She has been featured in online journals such as Rose Water, Passages North and Rat’s Ass Review.