Frederick D. Nichols

By Addison Walton •

Content warning: Descriptions of murder and white supremacy

Come to church in your Sunday best!
Let your mama press your hair.
Your daddy polished your good shoes.
New and black and shiny.
He did it with love. Your mama kisses your head and puts in a pink ribbon.
Your tiny arms clutch your bible.

You’re getting ready for today, you grab your bible.
It’s old and worn, not the best,
but it still holds the gospel. You mark the passage with an old silk ribbon
It reminds you of the ribbon your daughter used to put into her hair.
Everybody comes in at once. Eleven faces. All smiling, all bright and shiny.
One more falls in behind them, announced by the squeaking of their old tennis shoes.

Your best friend giggles as she shows off her new shoes.
Your other friend passes around her newly engraved bible,
the one she got for Christmas. Your last friend has never owned anything new or shiny.
Her parents work hard, they’re trying their best.
You push back a tight ringlet and compliment her hair.
You undo your hair and give her your ribbon.

She smiles, warm and bright. There’s an explosion, hot and blinding, you see your ribbon.
Your mother knows it’s you as soon as she spots your good shoes,
the one’s daddy just cleaned with love. You think how mad she’ll be when she sees your hair.
You still have your bible
in your tiny arms. You were all dressed up to kill (not to be killed) in your Sunday best.

Your friend who had your ribbon is next to you. Her blood is too shiny…

Bible study ends, you all stay to chat. He stands up and pulls out a gun, old but shiny.
The light reaching through the windows surrounds it in a halo as he shreds you all to ribbons,
dressed to kill in his murderer’s best.
Blood stains his white, old shoes.
You clutch your old beat up bible,
and you can almost see the ribbon in your daughter’s hair.

Now when mama pulls out the hot comb she’s moved to tears by the scent of burnt hair.
Your grown daughter tries to think of you at your best.
Little girl and preacher cling to their last hope, their bibles.
The struggle remains. In memory activists wear black and red ribbons.
(Black and red like you. Black and red like a longed-for dress, or a dark pair of shoes.
At least you looked good dying, dressed in your Sunday best).

Come to the funeral in your Sunday best! Go ahead and do your hair.
Wipe the blood off of those good shoes and make sure they’re shiny.
Immortalize the horror with a ribbon and try to find in answers in the bible.

Addision Walton is currently an undergraduate at Michigan State University, double majoring in Arts and Humanities and English (Creative Writing with a minor in Japanese). She has a strong interest in combining the arts with activism and justice.