I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store
looking over the plums, one by one
lifting each to his eyes and
turning it slowly, a little earth,
checking the smooth skin for pockmarks
and rot, or signs of unkind days or people,
then sliding them gently into the plastic.
whistling softly, reaching with a slim, woolen arm
into the cart, he first balanced them over the wire
before realizing the danger of bruising
and lifting them back out, cradling them
in the crook of his elbow until
something harder could take that bottom space.
I knew him from his hat, one of those
fine porkpie numbers they used to sell
on Roosevelt Road. it had lost its feather but
he had carefully folded a dollar bill
and slid it between the ribbon and the felt
and it stood at attention. he wore his money.
upright and strong, he was already to the checkout
by the time I caught up with him. I called out his name
and he spun like a dancer, candy bar in hand,
looked at me quizzically for a moment before
remembering my face. he smiled. well
hello young lady
hello, so chilly today
should have worn my warm coat like you
yes so cool for August in Chicago
how are things going for you
oh he sighed and put the candy on the belt
it goes, it goes.
Copyright © 2018 Eve L. Ewing. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.
Eve L. Ewing
Eve L. Ewing is a poet, essayist, and sociologist of education. She is the author of the poetry collection Electric Arches (Haymarket Books, 2017) and works as an assistant professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She lives in Chicago.
Date Published: 2018-03-13
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/i-saw-emmett-till-week-grocery-store