Three Poems by Melissa Fadul
By MELISSA FADUL
In times like these, to have you listen at all, it’s necessary to talk about trees.
Nine by twelve equals a Middle-Eastern girl,
five by seven equals American,
five by four equals Hispanic,
five by two equals Asian.
When another pimp asks
for a baker’s dozen,
a mix that can give and take.
Girls, in the back of a truck
ankles shackled by trackers.
We’ve heard of the place between two trees:
an old barn whose wood roof droops
after the pounding of an ice storm.
Beyond, two trees that stand like soldiers
who guard the dark, a small room.
The landslide of a mattress leans against a wall.
Nine by twelve’s fourteen year-old face disappears
into a rusted spot on the fabric.
Stubble scratches skin.
She bites. He bleeds.
Branches knock on the window.
Who will talk about these trees?
By MELISSA FADUL
I. Mamie Till Identifying her Son with the Funeral Director Mr. Rayner, Interview
I saw that his tongue had been choked out and it was lying down on his chin. I saw that his [left] eye was out and lying about midway [down the] cheek. I looked at this eye [the right] and it was gone. I looked at the bridge of his nose and it looked like someone had taken a chopper and chopped it. I looked at his teeth and only saw two. I was looking at his ear and I didn’t see the ear. Where’s the ear? And then I discovered a hole [above the ear] and could see daylight on the other side. Was it necessary to shoot him? If that’s a bullet hole, is that necessary? And I also discovered they had taken an axe and gone straight down across his head and the face and the back of the [skull] were separate.
This morning’s mourning,
skin-like heat shrouds
the idol Mary.
In the pew of the mind,
bone puddles reflect rosaries.
Mortality swells above the pyre,
and a mother longs
to kiss coffin-stricken lips.
Mind your manners
Are You Listening?
Mind your manners, Emmett.
She repeats to herself
bending into the coffin to kiss him
where his ear was.
Mississippi isn’t the Windy City.
Worry about the whites—
to warn her fourteen year –old son.
at the white woman
in the convenient store.
No bragging about white girls
you’ve kissed in the North.
ain’t the south.
Men with guns don’t bother
to knock on strangers’ doors in the hours
dog and wolf.
Drag a fourteen year-old
from his bed to the bed
of a pick-up truck.
Disrobe a black boy
and pistol-whip him
until the skull
possesses a nook.
Gouge out an eyeball
to disclose a canyon socket.
Throttle his neck
with barbed –wire.
Anchor the body
with a seventy-pound
cotton gin, before
throwing the corpse
into the Tallahatchie River.
III. The Coffin Comes Home to Chicago
The wooden box that holds
the remains has been nailed shut up.
Under no circumstances,
is it to be
IV. But This is Chicago. This is Mamie Till:
I want the world to look in and see.
That’s when I decided to let the world come in and see,
because it was something I could not handle
For Trayon Martin
THE SUNSHINE STATE
By MELISSA FADUL
Tonight no poetry will serve.
- (Not) on my Watch
Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good—
or he’s on drugs or something.
It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
Dispatcher: OK, and this guy – is he black, white or Hispanic?
Zimmerman: He looks black.
Dispatcher: He’s running?
Which way is he running?
Zimmerman: Down toward the other entrance.
Dispatcher: Are you following him?
You don’t need to do that.
- Mark O’Mara speaking with Al Sharpton Before Trial
O’Mara: The question is: Was he pursuing him,
and if he continued
to pursue him?
That’s what the jury has to determine.
The question is not really
one of whether or not
any pursuit or not
allows for a violent response.
The Florida law,
ignoring standard grounds—
It doesn’t really apply.
Florida’s self-defense law says,
you’re allowed to respond
to force with like force.
When force gets to force
likely to cause great bodily injury,
you can respond with deadly force.
Sharpton: But you can’t dismiss how they got together
and if they got together based on the pursuit
of Mr. Zimmerman—
a pursuit that he was advised by the dispatcher not to do,
which he agreed not to do,
and did anyway.
That would also set up the framework of how
they got together and what
transpired when they got together—
Then you can’t come back with only one
alive and say:
I was defending myself.
O’Mara: I understand that perspective.
But you have to understand,
there is no evidence whatsoever.
The state has not brought forward any evidence
to suggest Mr. Zimmerman was following
Trayvon Martin after the dispatch said,
you don’t have to do that.
Mr. Zimmerman’s answer was, o.k.
There’s no evidence to support that he continued to pursue…
- If You See something, Say Something
Dispatcher: Nine one one—
do you know need
Witness: I don’t
There’s someone screaming outside.
I don’t know why they’re yelling,
Dispatcher: Is it male or female?
Dispatcher: Does he look hurt?
Witness: I can’t see him.
I don’t want to
go out there.
I don’t know what’s going on.
Dispatcher: Do you think it’s him yelling?
I just heard gunshots.
Dispatcher: You just heard gunshots?
IV. Taste the Rainbow
blood puddle at the scene
of a Peruvian man
mixed with that of an African-American teen.
Listen to colored candies in the paper packet shake
like beans in a maraca—
the boy in the hood
is running in the rain from the strapped watchman.
The Peruvian with the last name of a Jew:
I thought he was armed.
- Testimony of Trayvon Martin’s Mother, Sybrina Fulton
prompted by Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara
Trayvon Martin had two tattoos on his body.
do you know where they were on his body?
He had prayer hands on his upper right shoulder
with his grandmother and great grandmother’s names.
They were praying hands and they had pearls going through it.
The other tattoo was on his left wrist.
He had my name there.
Prior to your son’s death,
have you heard him crying?
Have you heard him while he was growing up
or while you were raising him?
Have you ever heard him yelling
I want to play a recording for you ma’am.
Ma’am, that screaming or yelling,
do you recognize it?
That’s Trayvon Benjamin Martin.
- VII. Did you have any thought in mind how you would react
if you believed or didn’t hear your son’s voice?
I didn’t really know what the tape was all about.
When you mentioned a moment ago that you didn’t know
what the tape was about,
nobody spoke to you to tell you
that you would soon be listening to screams
from the event that led
to your son’s death?
Mayor Triplett never said anything like that to you?
Nor any of your other family members?
They hadn’t heard the tape at that time.
The question is whether or not anyone told you
to prepare yourself
for the event of the trauma
of having to listen
to somebody scream moments before
your son was shot.
Nobody mentioned that to you?
Tracy Martin never told you about that?
And you just need to listen to it one time, correct?
- VIII. Redirection: Sybrina Fulton and Prosecutor, Bernie De La Rionda
You were asked about hope.
Did you hope your son wouldn’t be dead, Trayvon Martin?
I was hoping he was still alive.
And I don’t how else to ask this
but I’m going to ask it.
Did you enjoy listening to that recording?
For Sybrina Fulton
and all my students
Sources: With the exception of section IV of ‘The Sunshine State,’ all dialogue was transcribed from the Zimmerman trial (Sources upon request).
MELISSA FADUL is a political poet working on her second collection. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest Editor: Paul Lojeski writes and lives in Port Jefferson, NY.
I first saw and heard Melissa read her poems in the spring of 2013 at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, NY. I was thunderstruck by their power and knew others would be too.
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