Twitter-Bop for Emmett Till

The following poem was basically an experiment. I wanted to write something for Emmett Till in the wake of the recent justifiable outrage over the vandalization of his memorial. Since so much of this outrage was expressed on social media, I wanted to see if I could use that medium to change the form/approach to my memorial poem. The medium I chose was twitter, because I wanted to make each line of the poem work alone as a tweet, with all the force of a well written tweet, and I also wanted each line to act like a traditional line of poetry, driving the momentum of the poem forward, step by step. Of course, any such experiment is on some level doomed to failure, but I wanted to see where it led me all the same.

I decided to choose the form of the Bop poem, recently invented by Afaa Michael Weaver, because I think it’s a wonderful form, with a lot of lyric opportunities, and also because it allowed me to post the poem over a couple of days on twitter, without over-posting. The Bop is generally comprised of three stanzas: the first stanza is six lines, and states a problem, followed by a refrain; the second stanza, eight lines, delves into the problem, followed by a refrain; and the last stanza, six lines, followed by the refrain, attempts to find a solution or come to terms with the inability to do so. As you can imagine, this leaves a poet a lot of possibilities to work with. I played with the form a little bit to increase the overall musicality of the poem, but generally, I more or less stuck to that original form.

Anyway, here’s what I came up with. Hope you enjoy it:

 

Twitter-Bop for Emmett Till

Just another one of them times the future leans back to politic with the past;
The present is something like a beacon between what we dream to what we’ve seen;
Bullet holes in a black boy’s grave, and folks like: all lives matter, I don’t know what you mean.
And no, the revolution will not be twitterized, and tho open caskets don’t convert criminals,
I still wake each morning to waves of wakes and the waves of the blue of the day,
And lately I find myself leaning back to listen for what the future’s leaning back to say.

Twitter-Bop for Emmett Till
Twitter-Bop for Emmett Till

The night was still and the moon was gold and the leaves came tumbling down;
I wrote this bop for you, Emmett, because I wonder with anger and wander with pain;
The dogs were howling and the wind was blowing and the moon was red and round;
A twitter Bop to keep me honest and true, with each line like a thought, each line like a shot;
Shouting and screaming, defiant proclaiming, to hell with you white devil bastards, a retort, and then no sound;
I wrote this bop for you Emmett to say what I know I’ll end up failing to say, when terror, fetid hot, yet clammy cold remains;
I wrote this bop for you Emmett cuz every time a cop hits a brother or sister his old club goes bop! Bop!
And it don’t stop y’all. And it just don’t stop.

Twitter-Bop for Emmett Till
Twitter-Bop for Emmett Till

I guess a twitter-bop is something like a New Orleans funeral with music, a jazz funeral.
At first the notes moan low and groan, bemoan the way a loss leaves us more alone.
The dirges and hymns intone the long slow walk from enwombed to entombed:
Hell, we’re all of us doomed.
But if the music swings down low, well by and by it swings high to merry memorials
Celebrating a life and a spirit that transcends racism, politics and even burials.

Twitter-Bop for Emmett Till

 

 

(Whit Frazier, October 25-27, 2016)

 

 

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