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Tag: Meghan Dunn

My Students See Emmett Till's Body

They don’t look away,

though I’ve warned that there’s no

shame in turning their heads,

that when Emmett’s mother says

People should see, they will see

what they can’t un-see. The shape

above the buttoned collar of the shirt

confusing, what is it?

A thing in a suit.

The nose is what gives it away

makes it plain that this is a face

of a boy their age, their same

taffy color. Gabriel in the back row

touches his own nose lightly

with his own dark finger.

He traces its edges

While Jasmine frames her face

with her hands, covers her eyes

and mouth, then uncovers them

to see how Emmett’s nose orients

the other features of his face,

provides a center to the swelling,

now they see, of the cheek,

his mouth, now they see it,

it’s a mouth. Davina’s mouth

is a pressed-tight line.

When she turns to me, her eyes

are wells of un-knowing.

I don’t know what she’s thinking.

Tonight I’ll go home and look

at my own face in the mirror.

I won’t know what I’m thinking

except that I have a nose

that no one wants to hack

from my face, skin the color

of cottonseed mixed with blood,

the white of a mother’s red-rimmed eye.

I have a neck no one wants

to barb or break, a face that

a white man would break

a black boy’s neck for looking at

too long or in the wrong way

or not at all.

I have two eyes to look

at whatever I want, a mouth,

unbroken teeth, a tongue,

a voice I don’t know

what to do with. But if I knew

how to whistle, wouldn’t I?

from Poetry Northwest 10.1 Summer & Fall 2015More by Meghan Dunn from the library

Copyright © Meghan Dunn
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.