noon.                                                               and the cafeteria is as cold as a morgue.


we fill the space with black boys.                   by 12:05 we have prayed for each other.


while talking to God, Nassir becomes so concerned              he forgets to bless his food. 


at the lunch tables, we sit in sixes       and stomach this.                 it’s a quarter after 
noon                      at the quarter of the school year                   where more than a quarter 


of the boys                   will be studying biology.                    so we begin with a cadaver. 


what the students know                                   is that Anthony Lamar Smith was a man.
what the students know                                   is that Anthony Lamar Smith was a man 


whose body was consumed     by five bullets.            what the students know


                is this time as last         there will be no indictment.               the city won’t sleep.


it’s 12:25.        before finishing his spaghetti              Roderick has lost his appetite.


I tell him, at least try the vegetables.


by 12:30 dismissal                                                      we have prepared for our departure.
we exit the school                to a procession of cars            waiting to carry the sons home.


EL WILLIAMS III is a St. Louis native. His poetry has been published in Public Pool and RISE: An Anthology of Power and Unity (VAGABOND Press, 2017). He received his B.A. in English and Black Studies from the University of Missouri. He is a recent participant in the Tin House Summer Workshop. Currently, he works in education. You can follow him on twitter and instagram @elda3rd.



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