by Edmund J. Janas, II

In Loving memory of his eldest brother, Obediah Swift, III who passed away in his sleep on

December 28, 2022

Little Troubled Black Boy

What of the little black boy,

alone to fight against this world?

Will they even mourn properly for him?

Because that’s all they see.

In years and decades past, how they did you wrong.

It seems for every child worshipped

one must be made a villain.

Does anyone think that such madness

doesn’t come at a price?

Who will hang the art of these little black boys

in their homes? Or who will struggle to

reconcile their journey?

Even as we must sit sentinel at fortress walls,

and watching our enemies without rest,

but even our own have no problem

letting some slip through;

as collateral losses. Those too pale

or too dark sacrificed for our own

insecurities, an imitation of life

and lowly slave master propaganda,

happy to condemn you with no real thought.

Little black boy, who will mourn properly for you?

Society’s sacrificial lamb.

I will.

When the glow of our youth fades,

who will recount our virtues?

And who will fight for you

whether you are adorned with skin like

high noon or dark as midnight?

Whether you are rich or poor?

Who will protect our own from a wicked

system, run by both the good, bad and mostly ugly?

We remember boys left to sleep on concrete slabs,

those boys spoken of in third person whispers,

gossip, names, lies and slander?

Carted off like straw, as those who wrongfully jailed them sing their songs and hang their art in their homes, who live well off their pain.

When we die, I don’t suppose those who love you

sit around to count our flaws,

less we remember our own

and we are able to count their numbers

in the skies as stars.

Little troubled black boy.

Don’t you never mind them,

I will remember you.

Unforgiving is for others,

Not for those who loved you,

those who remember our pure selves,

our true selves, will mourn us.

Gathering up his earthly remains…

every dollar of his value extracted.

Tagged, numbered and put into a box.

Remnants lovingly sent to those

with some memory of their mother crying

at a doorstep. A mother who knew

her love was not strong enough to heal his brokeness

but could only see him through it.

And I, the little brother who sat with his white father

as both my parents vouched for him,

and fought for him across the table from

concerned or condemning white faces.

She and father worried about you,

and fought for you. Remember that…

and they did so, seeing no difference between us.

Some would have you forget that.

I will not, because we are the ones

who remember little troubled black boys,

and sing their songs and hang their art

in our homes without shame,

but with love and pride.

But as a brother,

I remember cooling iced drinks in summer

with twirling ice, and constructing pirate ships,

and dismembered chocolate easter rabbits

to fit them in the fridge.

How we laughed

in the face of terror.

A brother taken,

a brother slipping away into the night.

How we do not account

for the light and dark ones

missing among us.

First born among my brothers,

and my best brother, gone.

I remember what was right

with that troubled life,

though a faint star, a star


Try we might, we must set

aside the wrongs,

remembering artwork sent

home to inspire. First among

brothers and the one I

followed like a little white

shadow at noon.

When we die, I know

all our faults fall away

like autumn leaves. I have

lost enough people to know

that is true.

Now little troubled boy,

we place you back into our

mother’s arms, and up

in the night sky surrounded

by constellations of our own countless faults,

we can finally see you


And when we

think to look up we can

finally see you shine.