wailing for 16th Street

the love that forgives
would have a hard time that morning
it would find itself
clearing its hands
of smoldering rubble
splintered glass
and the broken bodies
of four little Black girls

Birmingham knows all too well
how bloody September can be
eating pain ripe and flush
that drops from hatred’s own branches
we tend to forget today
that terrorism
often grows from familiar trees

four little girls
four Black babies torn from a world
that despised them from birth
four who’d never know sock hops
high school or their own babies
and Christ is trapped in stained glass
helpless at that point to lead

keep the wall in Jerusalem
we shall keep wailing here on 16th street
Meridian, Memphis, Selma, Greensboro
wherever hate and death meet on their dance card
because you see, somehow
we hope the tears and struggle
make some kind of sense
out of having a love that forgives
against a hate that never wishes to.

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cotton gin.(for Emmitt Till)

one name

two words

and almost sixty years later

it still doesn’t add up

your face before and after

should remind us always

of the twisted logic of bigots

found in the sneer of supposed supremacy

rope and bullets

and the embrace of cold Southern soil

some days

i remember seeing your face in that coffin

watching ‘Eyes On The Prize’ when i was nine

being told, ‘don’t look away son’

knowing you didn’t have that chance

in a darkened barn in Tallahatchie County

with demons enslaved by antebellum logic

and mason jars of moonshine

not knowing your name

Emmitt Till

would live in their flesh

one name

and two words

and the weight of a cotton gin

and we wonder why the nation hates math

authors asked

what was Mississippi afraid of then

ask that question again

when election time for our president comes

ask that question

when Black men are still dragged behind trucks for fun

you haven’t haunted them nearly enough

because there are those who still believe

racism and hatred will always add up

the devil’s arithmetic

still burns like straight gin

the image of you mangled in a coffin

like your name

doesn’t relieve the burn at all

but the fire this time and the next

will cleanse everything