Crooked Smiles

by on Jul 28, 2015

(For Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Jada Justice, and Shaniya Davis)

They wore crooked smiles—
Aiyana, Jada, and Shaniya.

Aiyana was shot in the skull
during a police raid; Jada

was killed by a cousin high on
drugs, and Shaniya was raped

and left for dead. If they had
looked like JonBenet Ramsey

their faces would’ve been on
placards and shirts and spilling

out the mouth of crusaders for
justice. Instead their pictures, like

bones—got buried six feet under
minds and forgotten. Aiyana’s

heart will never flutter holding a
boy’s hand nor will her eyes sparkle

being handed the keys to a new car.
Jada will never leave footprints on

a sandy beach or laughs in the wind
as her feet clap the shoulders of the

horse she’d begged to ride. Shaniya
will never again hear the sounds of

rain hitting her window or thunder
of a crowd when she slides into

home plate. Few tears were shed
when three white caskets were

lowered into the ground, but the
world still stops on its axis to dig

up Caylee Anthony. Let justice ring
from the rivers of Detroit. Let justice

ring from the banks of Lake George,
Indiana. Let justice ring from the

Sandhills of North Carolina. Let
justice and peace ring for the

unspoken tawny girls and all
their crooked smiles.


Arika Elizenberry is a native of Las Vegas, Nevada. She is currently an editor at Helen: A Literary Magazine and the President of UNLV’s Writing Rebels. Some of her favorite writers include James Baldwin, Dorothy Parker, Nikki Giovanni, and Lucille Clifton. Her work has appeared in journals such as 300 Days of Sun, Burningword Literary Journal, and Toasted Cheese. She is working on her bachelors in English.