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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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