© 2019 Helen: a literary magazine

Glass Coffins

by Arika Elizenberry

Some 300 glass coffins, casket heavy, 
perched on wooden shelves, are packed 
to the brim with bone, sweat, and rich soil. 
They fill space in Alabama's lynching museum,
the curators acting as pallbearers. Eulogies 
inscribed across their coffins be/moan:
 
UNKNOWN #1. 
 
UNKNOWN #2. 
 
UNKNOWN #3. 
 
1931.

Omaha, Nebraska.

John Booker Davis. 
 
Emma Fair
Carrollton, AL
September 14, 1893.
 
Lillie Cobb.
 
Julia Baker
Lake City, South Carolina
February 21, 1898.
 
Fathers buried beside daughters,
friends beside neighbors,
strangers beside strangers. 
Black soil stacked onto yellow. 
Reddish soil jammed alongside brown. 
All be/wail the dark side of unification.