“Eyes still too young to be dirty”: Emmett, Trayvon

Gwendolyn Brooks, 1917-2000

Gwendolyn Brooks, 1917-2000

I can’t stop thinking about Gwendolyn Brooks’s amazing pair of poems about the lynching of Emmett Till: “A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, a Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon.” and “The Last Quatrain Of The Ballad Of Emmett Till.” I have nothing lucid to say about them right now; just please read them.

One of the most important acts you can ever do as an activist is to shut up and listen to other voices. I am listening, hard, right now. Brooks’s poems help us keep listening to the voice of Emmett Till’s mother, six decades on.

…But there was a something about the matter of the Dark Villain.
He should have been older, perhaps.
The hacking down of a villain was more fun to think about
When his menace possessed undisputed breadth, undisputed height,
And a harsh kind of vice.
And best of all, when his history was cluttered
With the bones of many eaten knights and princesses.

The fun was disturbed, then all but nullified
When the Dark Villain was a blackish child
Of fourteen, with eyes still too young to be dirty,
And a mouth too young to have lost every reminder
Of its infant softness.

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