Emmett Till: Still
They had to rebuild it,
Your sign: bulletproof now,
Immortal you’ve become.
They keep trying to kill you,
Even with your body decades dead.
Your name, your image, still in the news.
They fear how you’ve grown.
No, they stopped that.
But in the minds of all who know,
All who hear,
Of what they did to you,
To punish what you never did.
Your bruised, battered face,
Proving their brutality.
Their crime is more than you lost,
Or justice never found.
It is that they are still beating,
And their human targets,
Who look like you,
Are still not bulletproof.
“You’ll miss me when I’m dead,”
This was her favorite line.
Invoking guilt in her children,
One of her favorite things.
She’s right, which she told me she’d be.
I’m done with her gone.
Just begged her back,
But it doesn’t work that way.
All she feared came true,
All that was left of her; confusion, and blue veins,
Her biggest lament of old hands.
Unable to serve tea and talk endlessly,
No longer capable of being.
Instead, wasting, in a nursing home,
Exactly where she said she’d never be.
Just thought fragments,
Eroded and jumbled, still she stayed.
And so I wished her away with all my might,
With whispered prayers to nothing I believe in.
Now she’s really gone.
And she was right.
I miss her when she’s dead.
I brought her back to Ireland.
Even though she’d only once been,
It was necessary she return.
Her body, ashes; shelved at home.
Her spirit, not captured on the cards I clutched,
But carried into every parish I passed.
An atheist prayer I offered in cathedral, church, chapel.
That she would be whole again,
Freed from the twisted shell she left,
Like beaten driftwood we’d found together on a beach,
No granule left of who she once was.
If she couldn’t remember, I’d make her remembered.
By the devoted Catholics I’d left,
But whom she never stopped thinking like.
Reciting their words every night,
Until her words were gone.
I placed her face under devotional candles, on wooden pews.
I knew where she’d be discovered.
Now they’d know of her love of tea and the ocean.
She belonged with them.
They could add her to their prayers.
Because I can’t.