I am Emmet Till.
In the casket, my mother shows my face – swollen, deformed, beaten.
Under my suit, my skin is pierced by barbs of wire.
I still had a little life in me when they strapped me to that tire – hurled me into that river.
Only my hat survived – brim up.
I am Tamir Rice. I know better but today I play “gangster” with a toy gun.
It starts to snow. I watch crystals float down in the city.
A police car speeds, brakes screech, two shots fire.
I fall, fade, think how I never saw the sea …and that’s when Emmet comes to me.
Though we died decades apart, now we walk together.
We walk all the way down to Emmet’s Mississippi river
thick with the scent of summer honeysuckle.
He finds his hat, brushes off dirt, sets it on his head
We are drawn to the sound of trickling water and push our way through the reeds.
On the bank we kneel side by side.
In the water’s mirror, we see ourselves whole again
all stitched back together.
We splash the dried blood off and rest.
We awaken at night with the noise of owls hooting.
Like magic Harriet appears, as in those pictures with her old rowboat and a blue scarf on her head.
She reaches out, pulls us in, her boat sways with our weight.
Harriet rows fast, her oars splash in a beat.
She lets out an owl hoot every so often as if checking for some unseen force.
We dip our fingers in the water as we glide.
She tells us to keep hanging on but under the moonlight
our heads sag to our chins in uncontrollable sleep.
She’s got the strength to row this river all night.
She’s gonna get us ghosts down this river
till it carries us to sea.
“Gonna get you to the sea by dawn,” Harriet says.
“Cuz there ain’t nothing like dawn on the waves when you’re free.”
Heidi Jacobs is in sixth grade and her favorite subjects are math, space, and science. She is on the swim team year-round but also enjoys running and cycling. She rides horses and loves to curl up with a good book and write in journals. She lives at home with her parents and her lizard named Abraxas in Haddonfield, New Jersey.