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Audre Lorde  Feb 2010
Afterimages
I

However the image enters
its force remains within
my eyes
rockstrewn caves where dragonfish evolve
wild for life, relentless and acquisitive
learning to survive
where there is no food
my eyes are always hungry
and remembering
however the image enters
its force remains.
A white woman stands bereft and empty
a black boy hacked into a murderous lesson
recalled in me forever
like a lurch of earth on the edge of sleep
etched into my visions
food for dragonfish that learn
to live upon whatever they must eat
fused images beneath my pain.

II

The Pearl River floods through the streets of Jackson
A Mississippi summer televised.
Trapped houses kneel like sinners in the rain
a white woman climbs from her roof to a passing boat
her fingers tarry for a moment on the chimney
tearless and no longer young, she holds
a tattered baby's blanket in her arms.
In a flickering afterimage of the nightmare rain
a microphone
****** up against her flat bewildered words
"we jest come from the bank yestiddy
borrowing money to pay the income tax
now everything's gone. I never knew
it could be so hard."
Despair weighs down her voice like Pearl River mud
caked around the edges
her pale eyes scanning the camera for help or explanation
unanswered
she shifts her search across the watered street, dry-eyed
"hard, but not this hard."
Two tow-headed children hurl themselves against her
hanging upon her coat like mirrors
until a man with ham-like hands pulls her aside
snarling "She ain't got nothing more to say!"
and that lie hangs in his mouth
like a shred of rotting meat.

III

I inherited Jackson, Mississippi.
For my majority it gave me Emmett Till
his 15 years puffed out like bruises
on plump boy-cheeks
his only Mississippi summer
whistling a 21 gun salute to Dixie
as a white girl passed him in the street
and he was baptized my son forever
in the midnight waters of the Pearl.

His broken body is the afterimage of my 21st year
when I walked through a northern summer
my eyes averted
from each corner's photographies
newspapers protest posters magazines
Police Story, Confidential, True
the avid insistence of detail
pretending insight or information
the length of **** across the dead boy's *****
his grieving mother's lamentation
the severed lips, how many burns
his gouged out eyes
sewed shut upon the screaming covers
louder than life
all over
the veiled warning, the secret relish
of a black child's mutilated body
fingered by street-corner eyes
bruise upon livid bruise
and wherever I looked that summer
I learned to be at home with children's blood
with savored violence
with pictures of black broken flesh
used, crumpled, and discarded
lying amid the sidewalk refuse
like a ***** woman's face.

A black boy from Chicago
whistled on the streets of Jackson, Mississippi
testing what he'd been taught was a manly thing to do
his teachers
ripped his eyes out his *** his tongue
and flung him to the Pearl weighted with stone
in th e name of white womanhood
they took their aroused honor
back to Jackson
and celebrated in a *******
the double ritual of white manhood
confirmed.

IV

"If earth and air and water do not judge them who are
we to refuse a crust of bread?"

Emmett Till rides the crest of the Pearl, whistling
24 years his ghost lay like the shade of a ***** woman
and a white girl has grown older in costly honor
(what did she pay to never know its price?)
now the Pearl River speaks its muddy judgment
and I can withhold my pity and my bread.

"Hard, but not this hard."
Her face is flat with resignation and despair
with ancient and familiar sorrows
a woman surveying her crumpled future
as the white girl besmirched by Emmett's whistle
never allowed her own tongue
without power or conclusion
unvoiced
she stands adrift in the ruins of her honor
and a man with an executioner's face
pulls her away.

Within my eyes
the flickering afterimages of a nightmare rain
a woman wrings her hands
beneath the weight of agonies remembered
I wade through summer ghosts
betrayed by vision
hers and my own
becoming dragonfish to survive
the horrors we are living
with tortured lungs
adapting to breathe blood.

A woman measures her life's damage
my eyes are caves, chunks of etched rock
tied to the ghost of a black boy
whistling
crying and frightened
her tow-headed children cluster
like little mirrors of despair
their father's hands upon them
and soundlessly
a woman begins to weep.
Maggie Emmett Aug 2015
Lady Macbeth washed her hands
cleaner than Pontius Pilate
with a new improved, bio-enzyme
oxy-bursting, 99.9% germ-scouring
recommended by dermato-logists
scented with rose attar
oils from Arabia
and spermaceti soothing
unguents from long dead whales.

She’s going to the nail bar
for a manicure and application
of semi-permanent, diamond-
tipped, acrylic base-coated
in red blood enamel.

She’ll scratch
and etch rich tattoos
on her husband’s back
with every ******, he will shudder
with pain and delight
He’ll soon forget long, dark nights
bewitched by ghosts and ambition.

© M.L. Emmett
Alternate views of Literature
Kaleb Vernon  Sep 2015
Emmett
Kaleb Vernon Sep 2015
everyday at 8:00am sharp, i see the same tiny, tired faces walk 2 blocks south just to get more confused then when they started the day
i wondered how many of these faces would grow up to be politicians
how many would grow up to be doctors
and how many would grow up to still be confused
emmett a young boy that just lives three houses down the street
stopped me on my way to work
he asked me "how come my parents yell at each other?"
not thinking about he said, i responded "go ask your mother"
and continued on my walk.
i pressed play on my iPod to only have loud bangs startle me
and glanced behind me only to see boulders of tears fall from the boys face
the night before i fell asleep watching the animal channel and remembered the young gazelle that was violently eaten because his parents weren't there to protect him
emmett, unprotected, fell to his knees, dropped his head back and cried out like it was the skies fault for this feelings
i couldn't help but be afraid, i heard the anger of his voice mimic his parents bed time stories from behind his closed door
like father like son, what you learn is what you practice
and i could tell that what he was learning was more from home then in the classroom
i wrapped my arms around him, three times over
so he could be closer to a beating heart then he has in months
the earthquake of his tiny nerves dropped from about a 10 on the Richter's scale down to about a 6.3
therefore i knew that i was comforting more then i was strangling this boy against my chest
i whispered, what you feel is okay
what you know if not all to life
there's more then just bomber planes that fly over your families unity
love doesn't normally involve being a prisoner to your bedroom
and certain doesn't involve yelling at the one you planned forever with
his eyes looked up at me like two rays of sunlight peaking through the rain clouds and said "so there's hope"
i never heard three words so sad but so reassuring
ecstatic in his conclusion, i yelled "YES OF COURSE" but obviously with much more enthusiasm then he's use to
he untangled himself from my net, and opened his backpack
he pulled out a piece of construction paper that read "tank you for your helb"
although there was no "h" in the word thank and there was a b instead of a p, i got what he meant
he said i made this for my teacher but i want you to have it
you help me dry my tears so my friends don't think i'm weird
and theres always more crayons in classroom anyways

since then we've walk every day to school together
and that piece of so perfectly written construction paper now hangs in the office of a doctor.
I am Emmett Till
watch me not smile
you can feel me whistling to white America
while I beg to be let in
with agony arising around my soul
severity of envy crushed my heart
She watched with a smile
while I was tortured
by the white men she used
because I would not do with her
the ***
she wanted
white America
I am dead
and I am no longer your *** slave
Bob B Aug 2018
Listen intently now, if you will,
To the sorrowful story of Emmett Till--
A black fourteen-year-old lad
Who hadn't done what they said he had

In August of 1955.
It's possible he could still be alive
If only he…if only…well,
Listen to what I have to tell.

Caught in one of those circumstances
Of having made ****** advances,
Till, whose actions were taken for granted--
Note: his accuser later recanted--

Was brutally tortured, lynched, and shot.
His body was left in the river to rot
Not very far from Glendora, Miss.
How shocking to hear stories like this!

Two white men, in a great hurry,
Were later acquitted by an all-white jury.
Such incidents are a wound indeed
On the soul of America. Watch it bleed!

In 2007 a sign was erected
At the site of the ******, but someone objected,
And suddenly the sign disappeared,
Just as many people had feared.

A second sign replaced number one,
But thugs seeking perverse fun
Destroyed the sign with bullets, and so
Sign number two had to go.

Officials did what they had to do,
And sign number three replaced number two.
Within a few weeks, it, too, was marred
With bullet holes leaving it scarred.

The bullet-riddled sign demonstrates
There's work left to do in all fifty states.
Prejudice and hatred are blinding;
The road to justice is long and winding.

-by Bob B (8-21-18)
Maggie Emmett Aug 2014
You breathed your last breath from the air
in this room;
that threadbare Persian carpet
holds flakes from your skin;
hairs from your head
corkscrew the dented cushions
scattered and idly waiting on the sofa;
bed linen scented with your sweat
the goose down doona that stole
your last warmth;
sleep spit and tears
human moisture that permeates
the acrylic layers of your pillow;
an eyebrow hair wedged in the tweezers;
a clipped nail that flew off
somewhere out of sight;
that new toothbrush used only once;
your flannel and towel still drying out;
the wet press footprint on the bathroom mat;
the talcum powdered slippers
abandoned under the brass bed.
Each moment of everyday
we shed ourselves
shed dead cells and renew -
a cycle of shedding
until the last
shedding of ourselves.


               © M.L. Emmett
Forensic Science programs seemed to be everywhere and I minutely explore my grief in an unusual way
I am no longer master of my time
Master of these greynesses of time
What flowers can I weave for Emmett Till

the child whose soul in mine
lies bleeding....

I die alone from pride
I leave to Emmett Till his death
from horror at myself
An excerpt written by Tchikaya U'Tamsi (Congo), which can be found in the African Philosophy Reader (Coetzee & Roux 2003: 725).

This piece reflects on the brutal death of Emmett Till, who passed away at the age of 14, at the hands of white brutality in a time where negritude and negation was still very rife in America.
Rissa Wallace Dec 2011
And then we are called *****’s
and feel like that is so much better.
As if it’s not the same derogatory word
now its just more “sophisticated.”
Used in lyric like it’s the only word that rhymes with everything.
Since its 2010 you think we are not like Emmett Till, but we are.
The only difference is we shoot our own guns and one by one we make our own selves obsolete.
The “N” word flowing out of the mouths of our newer generations as if it’s the government given name stamped on every black persons’ birth certificate.
Like there was never a revolution
Like there was never a fight to bring us up to what is seemingly equal to everyone else.
You are what brings us down again.
Hearing the yells of one black man to another in conversation “can a ***** get…”
(insert a stereotypical ending here)
No a ***** can’t get nothin’. That is what has been repeatedly told to the race as a whole.
Burned into our minds like the branding of a cow.
Each time the “N” word is uttered out of another’s mouth its like a gravitational pull that scientist have yet to discover.
More powerful than any black hole.
Like ***** in a barrel. We strive to keep the others at our level.
Ask Fredrick Douglas, it’s his expertise…
As he was one of the original ****** Breakers; we have multiplied the frequency and have unknowingly become professionals at something we never strived to be.
The “N” word flows out of our mouths and through the air like the historical dance it took to get us here.
The dance we have long forgotten but our bodies seem to react the same way whenever an Anglo-Saxon uses our coveted word.
Like it wasn’t the word they yelled as they made permanent welts on our backs that would last generations
Like it wasn’t what they yelled at us to strip away every individualistic quality
They referred to us as if we were herds
Like it wasn’t their term to begin with. We should let them have it.
We are like the modern generations of our ancestral princes and princesses of Africa.
As powerful as they once were, we have mastered fields that others wish they had a chance to accomplish in.
We were built to overcome any obstacle.Other than the obstacle of getting out of our own way.
It is no longer like the underground railroad.
There are no hounds chasing us through the waters.
****** should no longer be the tether that holds us down
We have the ability to soar like a majestic bird that shall always remain unnamed.
As “*****’s” we are nothing. As African American’s we are an impenetrable strength.
Maggie Emmett Mar 2016
The air is slow and still
faint puttering of the last barge
shunting coal downstream

city on the edge of sleep, settles
city on the edge of night, darkens

stretched steel and stone relax
cooling to a grey relief

reeds and sedges ripple
under bridges
and on the edges of the river

city in the gaze of moonlight, sighs
city in the haze of moonlight, slips

in the steady wash of tidal waters
and the brackish water of the estuary
come the bodies from the shore.


© M.L. Emmett
I was born in Reading, a town straddling the river Thames. It is an ancient river...
thatdreadedpoet Jul 2013
on july 13th, 2013: George Zimmerman
a florida native with a history of violence
was found not guilty for the ****** of unarmed 17 year old African American boy Trayvon Martin claiming self defense

on may 8th, 2012 African American, Marissa Alexander:
a florida native with no history of violence
was sentenced to 20 years in prison for discharging a warning shot out of self defense from the wrath of her abusive ex- husband

marissa,
i often wonder how you felt on july 13th when you heard the Trayvon Martin verdict
did you feel the heaviness of invisible shackles weighing your hands and feet down like you had stepped into the 1600s?
did you feel a surge of anger burn through your throat like i did for you?

did you ask yourself if you should’ve continued letting your husband play picasso on you?
Letting your body be his work of art as he splattered blotches of black and blue making a tie-dyed canvas out of you?
because the jury treated the bruises you wore as if they were the plague
saying beware of a black woman who protects herself
it takes 20 years of solitary confinement to cure her of this disease

marissa,
are you afraid of the skin of bullseyes your two children were born into
knowing that society will use them for target practice every day like they did for you?

can you not sleep at night out of fear anytime your child pulls a hood over his head
that he is marking himself as sacrifical lambs to our legal system?

did you tell your mother the next day to burn your babies black hoodies
because on July 13th it was made known
being black and wearing a hood means danger
that being black and wearing a hood means you have a hunger for ******
that being black and wearing a hood means you have cosigned to a persecution?
and yet…we all seem to forget the ones in white that fit the same description

marissa,
i hope you’re starting to see America has OCD
wanting to color within the same lines, with the same two colors
segregating black and white
neglecting to realize that blood and blood shed never bleed out in the same two colors
just look at the crime scenes of Trayvon Martin and your ex-husband

marissa,
from now on when you bite your tongue while eating
don’t spit the blood out
leave it, let it settle, then swallow
and let it be a reminder of all the trayvon martins, all the emmett tills, all the james birds, and all the little black boys who died for standing their ground like you tried to

marissa,
i know you feel like god abadoned you
as if he stabbed you into the back and sent you on a suicide mission
but please
know you are my symbol of hope
you are my hero
the woman i wish to emulate and be
you are the one i pray for at sunday night dinners while holding the one hand of my black mother and the other hand of my white father
hoping one day america can sing free at last and actually mean that
hoping one day america can be blended and still be considered alright
hoping america will stop painting pictures in only black and white

— The End —