One Summer

On April 22, 1993, 18-year-old 2nd Generation Jamaican youth Stephen Lawrence was attacked and stabbed to death in an unprovoked hate crime by a gang of white boys as he waited at a bus stop in London. His murderers were acquitted and allowed to walk free for 18 years, until two of his six killers were convicted of murder in 2011.

for Stephen Lawrence (September 13, 1974—April 22, 1993)

In the dream, Stephen  
you’re thicker than when we were young
but thoughtful, as a first kiss.  

We had one summer in Kingston 
before England’s white boys 
kicked, clubbed, knifed you.   

Too brief again, this August light 
its hours shifting. And hate, a hungry  
animal that only takes.  

The day your family stood above  
your grave, swept by coconut palms 
and a small bird orchestra 

I smashed the shuttlecock  
repeatedly against my backyard wall
my grief knocking back 

against the day’s blunt silence. 
What loves still lives, transforms  
my days, each night 

each decade passing—  
I follow you, and return to the gate 
you towered over  

that careless summer 
when you were just a boy  
laughing against the sky 

and I still believed in the light  
and what it makes of us.

Copyright © 2021 by Ann-Margaret Lim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 21, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.