Very early on the first day of the week
while it was still as dark and full of secrets
as a bad man’s soul, they came for him,
with a flashlight and a .45 in hand,
they came for Emmett Till.
They said he’d whistled at a white woman;
they said he needed to be taught
that a nigger boy
ain’t got no right to be talkin’ outa’ place.
And in a barn they beat that boy
across his back and hips and face.
Then to a shed they carried him;
they pistol whipped and thrashed
fourteen year old Emmett Till.
They broke his nose like as with a meat chopper.
They gouged his eye out from its orbit.
A bullet through his skull killed the boy at last,
but even more disgrace was done:
they tied a weight around his neck
with loops of sharp barbed-wire
and dumped his body into the water
of the Tallahatchie River.
On the third day he rose again.
His corpse was taken home and put upon display;
laid out in public for all the world to see.
And there were many who were appalled.
His appearance was so disfigured
beyond that of any other man.
Emmett Till was sacrificed
upon a Mississippi courtroom altar,
a boy, a lamb,
that we might break free
from our nation’s original sin.