Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Ode to Emmett

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Ode to Emmett

Article excerpt

you photograph

names you handsome

some might even say

you seemed arrogant dressed

in the fashion of the day

hat cocked on your head

you appeared strapping

someone accustomed

to be complimented

someone familiar

with the grace of love

you eyes frame joy

scent each day a blessing

did you at fourteen

believed yourself a man

spoke you mind

accepted challenges

fait accompli

did you slow groove

to the platters'

only you

or sang along with ray charles'

fool for you

perhaps on Sundays

your mama played mahalia jackson

her voice a triumphant spiritual

perhaps you cheered at the

brown vs board of education decision

enjoyed basketball or football

and shared a good laugh with your buddies

i was not even a year old

when you died

but at fourteen

i knew everything

there was to know i thought

was confident of my smartness

could and did make decisions

for myself defying my mother

even lying at times

to go and do and be with friends

whenever I choose

when i was fourteen

i planned to be a lawyer

marry a fast-bowler

cricket player

have six children

and travel the world

i played lawn tennis

and badminton

had my first boyfriend

and met him at the 10 a.m.

matinee movies and we kissed

in the dim lit room

fourteen emmett

just fourteen years old

did you visualize your manhood

reflect on what you'd become

who you'd marry

the children you'd have

the places you'd travel

the contribution you'd make

what were your thoughts

emmettfourteen years old

when life should have been

ahead of you

[Author Affiliation]

Opal Palmer Adisa is poet, essayist, playwright, mother and professor of creative writing and literature at California College of the Arts. …

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