4,094 Readings

A Poem for White Policemen (and White Poets)

And when you flick

     with callused thumb the butt-end

of that particularly weighted

     and golden bullet aimlessly

and when your lips at night

     meet your wife’s mother’s

husband’s daughter’s stranger’s

     lover’s perfectly fit perfection

and when to you the moon

     sitting there just so just so

stunningly quiet knocks and knocks

     all night long majestic

and when through walls and doors

     your kid’s laughter

cuts so swimmingly into the morning’s

     last dream motionless

and when in the rearview

     you see yourself seeing

like such an Ahab at the helm

    this American music of now

and when Chamillionaire

     drops from the speakers

and you too for a second sing

     as if you’re smilingly free

and when you kick in the ribs

     of the boy who ran

because he knew you’d do so

     before you did before you did it

and when you call dutifully

     whomever in your family

listens intently to the space

    between the other’s words

and when you can for a second

     see what I mean when I

say things about being afraid

     we’re so indifferently alike   

and when that toothbrush

     stuck in its lousy cup

looks to you like a flag atop

     your tiny kingdom and mine

and when a toddler buckled in

     against the back

of his stroller looking at you

     with his whole body waves

and when you finally finish

     the book your cousin bought

you last Christmas knowingly

     close it knowing he was right

and when the dog circles

      the couch before nuzzling up

pressing her snout into your knees

     needing you so much

and when you’re doing your job

      simple as that and I’m simple

as that doing mine and we meeting

     move always along    

and when your tribe and mine

     can make the same jokes because

we don’t you know mean it really

     we don’t do we no I know

and when it’s a point of pride

     to stub until it’s dull the point

with which you pride yourself

     on such sustenance being present

and when we can each of us eat

     as much as we damn well please

while the bones of black and brown

     bodies stiffen our silverware

and when we sing so sanctimoniously

     about it all in the loud

blackface we both wiped off

     before leaving the apartment

and when we think the pronouns

      are always us always ours

always the you that you’re using

      here as being the me I mean

what if you’ve known by heart

     since you were twelve the lyrics

to LL Cool J’s I Need Love and admittedly

     never in your life loved anyone black?








Posted 12/06/14
I wrote this poem this morning. Each of our responses to what's going on is so much more complicated and nuanced than just sharing a link on Facebook. As a poet, I think it's maybe my responsibility to speak/sing from this complication, even if the act of doing so adds only more noise to the mess or more mess to the noise.
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