GROW HERE TOO for Emmett Till
sung without a tremor in his throat, the news man counted our tears in torrents. 10 THOU- SAND WEEP WITH TILL’S MOTHER—enough rain to raise the tide beneath their ships, falling into a flood, swelling and standing still like holy water and washing away no sins. the rain could not protect our grandmothers’ grandmothers from gasping against the ocean’s fold. but what difference could a deep breath make? the grand- mothers who did not jump still learned to drown. after all, they toss boys to the bottom of the Tallahatchie for less, —like living out loud, or being a boy. happy and black and killed but most of all just a boy. they said he had it coming. they said he whistled like a wolf. they said his body broke like the waves against their ships. they said they can still taste the lies on their tongues —sweet before they soured in the Mississippi sun. but we said the boy will be a king in his casket. and when our land remembers his name (verb; to sow crops), the boy will grow gilded roots, stretching new earth beneath our feet, pushing our heels towards the sky as if to say you can grow here too.
A.T. McWilliams is a race, culture and politics writer living in San Francisco, California. A.T.’s essays have appeared in the New Yorker, the Guardian, Slate, Complex, The Huffington Post, Quartz and more. His poems have (or will soon) appear in Prelude Magazine, Main Street Mag, Radius Literary Magazine, Storyscape Journal, Blunderbuss Magazine, Juked Journal, Gravel Magazine, Mobius Magazine, Rogue Agent Journal, and elsewhere. In 2016, A.T. received a nomination for the national Pushcart Prize for poetry. He can be found on the web: https://www.atmcwilliams.com.