Since it didn’t happen the evening
Of whatever the hell Emmett Till did;
Whistle, or wave, or simply galled
His throat to shoot the breeze
Into the face of white, southern
I’d like to imagine he walked out
Of that store, into the hot Mississippi
Air, with the lope of a bank robber,
Swinging his bag of loot.
The dare won, his point made;
I’m not from here, and where I’m from,
This shit is crazy.
And nothing happened, the first two nights,
And no one came the third.
That’s how long he had
To be a new kind of Negro.
CORNELIUS EADY, poet and playwright, is the author of eight books, including Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems. In 1996 he and writer Toi Derricotte founded the black poets’ organization Cave Canem. Currently he teaches in the M.F.A. program at SUNY Stony Brook Southampton.
image: Augusta Savage, Gamin, c. 1929