Archive for July 2016
Given what unfolded in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis last week, a poem I wrote last summer has been running through my mind. I posted it here originally, though in a very rough form. A call for publication last spring encouraged me to get it back out and rework it. It was ultimately rejected, but that doesn’t diminish my desire to put it up here.
Downloadable: Press Release (Police Departments)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (month, date, year)
On (date) at (time), officers responded to reports of (criminal code number + criminal act). Upon arrival, officers noted that (first and last name of citizen) was (circle all that apply)
- behaving erratically
- reaching for a possible weapon
- making eye contact with them.
Officers were unable to de-escalate the situation with Mr. / Ms. (last name of citizen) because they feared for their lives and had to make a split-second decision to (circle one)
While it is unfortunate that Mr. / Ms. (last name of citizen) died (circle one)
- at the scene,
- in transport to custody,
- while in custody,
police investigators have recommended that officers not face disciplinary charges based on (circle all that apply)
- review of dashcam video that did not include sound
- the lack of forensic evidence gathered at the scene
- statements from witnesses who were found to be unreliable
- reports submitted by the officers.
These findings were accepted by (circle all that apply)
- the chief of police who hired the officers
- the mayor who is running for re-election on a “tough on crime” platform
- the prosecuting attorney whose family member was killed by someone from the same demographic as Mr. / Ms. (last name of citizen).
The issue is now closed. The (City) Police Department remains committed to effective policing strategies and building positive relationships with the community.
You’ve spent a lot of time this past month lying face down on your bed with your right arm dangling off the side, your hand brushing the carpet. You keep your iron handy when you do this, because it comes into play soon enough. There’s a good reason why you’re doing this, but they are outnumbered by the poor reasons why you’re still doing this. You could have been done with it a few months ago but for denial about your age and physical state.
It occurred to you a little less than a month ago that you’re turning forty-six. You said it to a guy you work with when you were playing golf and he was wondering why you were only putting. That led to a discussion about your physical state, and at one point you said your shoulder was messed up again, and it was mostly because you’re about to turn forty-six. You didn’t mention the poor form you use when lifting weights, nor did you mention your refusal to see the doctor, because you verbalized “forty-six” almost reflexively, and it was about a mile out of your mouth before you knew it. You were stunned into silence. You were going to be forty-six in less than a month.
Forty-six means you’re closer to fifty than forty. Forty-six feels far older than forty, mainly because fifty is far older than forty, and now you’re past the half-post mark between the two. Hell, forty-six doesn’t even look like a comfortable number. Look at it: 46. The four looks like he lost his footing and is sinking into quicksand, helpless to help himself. He’s got one arm bent at the elbow and his hand is smacking his head, like “Krikey… what did I do?” The six looks like some rube in denial about his beer belly. He’s curving his back, thinking “I can suck my belly in closer and people won’t notice it so much.” But he still can’t see his feet. Together, they’re the last two people left at the church picnic when the pastor said pair up for a three-legged race, and they’re stuck with each other.
The ramp-up to forty-six thus far has mostly meant that you’re in denial. You think you can still run faster than you did when you were a teen. That’s mostly bullshit. Hills kill you anymore. And humidity? Forget it—you’ll walk. Your back is sore after some runs, and your legs are weak. Your chiropractor keeps asking, “What the hell have you been doing?” You think you can bounce back from a grueling school year after a peaceful weekend. It’s more like a two- or three-week depressurization process because somehow the job keeps getting harder the longer you do it. You think that you can’t suffer injuries and that you don’t have to take time to recover from them. That’s why you’ve been spending so much time face down on your bed lately. It’s not practice for the inevitable; rather, it’s the position you assume for the exercises you have to do if you want your shoulder to heal properly.
It could all be over with at this point. You could have bought a shoulder brace that helps you ice your damn shoulder a lot earlier than you did (Try this at home: Live by yourself, get a shoulder injury, and try to ice it when you don’t have another pair of hands to help you place the ice and secure a bandage around your shoulder and torso. I’ll bet you wish you had one of these.) You could have gone to physical therapy earlier, rather than waiting eight months, thinking that your shoulder will get better on its own. You could have done the exercises you were supposed to do while you were in physical therapy rather than telling the therapist that you were doing them: “Am I doing my exercises? I sure am! Twice a day, just like you said! What’s that? What two-pound weight am I using? Why… my iron, of course! It’s very handy!” It turns out the iron is very handy, and that the exercises help a lot. So those are the big lessons you’ve learned as you’ve approached forty-six. You’re not forty anymore. The doctor knows what’s good for you. Stop telling lies. Also, stop acting like you’re thirty-six. This is the same thing you were doing then. Haven’t you gained any wisdom over the last ten years?!
Everybody is going to ask what you’ll be doing for your forty-sixth birthday. You don’t know for sure beyond spending some of the day lying face down on your bed with your right arm dangling off the side, your hand brushing the carpet. Your iron will be nearby.