James A. Emanuel


Emmett Till *


I hear a whistling
Through the water.
Little Emmett
Won't be still.
He keeps floating
Round the darkness,
Edging through
The silent chill.
Tell me, please,
That bedtime story
Of the fairy
River Boy
Who swims forever,
Deep in treasures,
Necklaced in
A coral toy.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Kiarra Smith (10/30/2008 7:20:00 PM)

    In this haunting poem, James A. Emanuel tells the story of Emmett Till in a disturbing way: as a children's bedtime story. His method works quite well. 'He keeps floating, Round the darkness, Edging through, The silent chill' is a refers to 14 year old Emmett's corpse floating through the Tallahatchie River. 'Necklaced in, A coral toy' refers to the barbed wire which was used to tie Emmett to the gin fan, thrown into the Tallahatchie. His feet were tied down and after three days, his bloated and deteriorated body rose to the surface and was fished out. The most disturbing lines of the poem are 'Tell me, please, That bedtime story, Of the fairy, River Boy'. It is ironic because many parents of color used the story of Till as a warning to their children of what racism can do to a person, simply because he or she is of a different race. However, the child in this poem is fascinated with the story, perhaps out of fear and wonder. Many times, people research and yearn to learn more about something that fascinates them, even if that something is the lynching of a child. Emanuel uses this interesting approach and it creates a dynamic poem. (Report) Reply

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