Friday, July 08, 2016
41 - for Diallo
This is a poem I wrote nearly 15 years ago after the Diallo verdict in NY. Amadou Diallo was an African immigrant who was unarmed. He reached for his wallet to pull out an ID and was shot 41 times in the crossfire of NYC police. All 4 police officers were acquitted on charges of excessive force.
I wish this poem were more dated, that this was all over with, not escalating more and more. It's kind of like Bono saying that Sunday, Bloody Sunday was not relevant, and then finding that it was, that it had new resonances that he hadn't anticipated when he wrote it.
This is now dedicated to Philando Castile in Minnesota, and to everyone who has lost their lives to excessive force and overreaction by the police.
Many people say that we need to feel sorry for the police, but that is their JOB. Their job is to put themselves in the line of fire. That is what they signed on for and if you can't take the stress without killing people, without bullying, without excessive force. then turn in your gun and GET A DIFFERENT JOB.
Driving down the street should not be putting yourself in the line of fire. Being mentally ill, homeless, young, old, etc. should not put you in the line of fire. Those things are not the same as signing up to be a police officer, getting paid to carry a gun, and knowing that you are putting yourself at risk when you leave the house. Castile, like Diallo and myriad others between them, did not realize that by leaving their homes they were putting themselves in danger.
I also don't think cops should be on the beat as long as they are. They get a warped view of humanity when they spend 10, 15, 20 years on the beat. They learn to see everyone as a criminal and a threat.
And then there's the militarization of our police forces and our entire society. We as a society have become too militarized. This is what 15 years of perpetual war has done to us, of bringing the war home, of making everyone identify themselves as citizen soldiers in so-called homeland security.
All of this needs to be taken down by many many many notches.
Click on the number/title 41 to hear the audio clip as you read it.
Someone must have mistaken you for the Devil,
the monster outside the door that could not be killed with mortal means.
I bathed in the river of dead fish;
beside the park a cacophony:
children pointing fingers in a chanting circle.
Beneath my feet the dusty bones of ancestors murdered
in my own myths vanquished
to make me whole.
Although we live like children, these are not games we play.
Absent fathers do not sweep under the bed for monsters after dark.
41 holes in a trembling effigy now tucks us in at night the undertakers
will wax a smile upon your lips as you leave behind an island nation of
inmates to sit upon your throne of honor.
I walked through the skeletal hallway, my joints disconnected my bones
falling away beside me my seams unraveling.
Who brings you into the light at this moment? The flashlight in your face, the steam off your skin, El Diablo, someone must have thought.
41 tasks I gave you and the stables remain unclean.
41 days from the deluge/first drop and already you forget how to swim.
41 winks - you will not wake from this sleep.
I bathed in the river of dead fish to rinse you from my skin.
These are not games that we play we run home dusty and
sunburnt expecting someone to tuck us in.