Commitments by Essex Hemphill

Cyberton | Kidd Ford


I will always be there.
When the silence is exhumed.
When the photographs are examined
I will be pictured smiling
among the siblings, parents,
nieces and nephews.

In the background of the photographs
the hazy smoke of barbecue,
a checkered red and white tablecloth
laden with blackened chicken,
glistening ribs, paper plates,
bottles of beer and pop.

In the photos
the smallest children
are held by their parents.
My arms are empty, or around
the shoulders of unsuspecting aunts
expecting to throw rice at me someday.

Or picture tinsel, candles,
ornamented, imitation trees,
or another table, this one
set for Thanksgiving,
a turkey steaming the lens.

My arms are empty
in those photos, too,
so empty they would break
around a lover.

I am always there
for critical emergencies,
the middle of the night.

I am the invisible son.
In the family photos
nothing appears out of character.
I smile as I serve my duty.


essex hemphillEssex Hemphill, 1957-1995


See all the pieces from 29 Days of Beautiful here.


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