Auld Lang Syne

Friday, August 15, 2014

An Uncomfortable Poem

We hear of the bombings in Gaza and Israel, the air strikes in Iraq, and think "thank God not here" until we watch what's happening in cities across America, large and small. Young unarmed people of color gunned down in a "shoot first, duck responsibility later" mode. This mess with out of control "law enforcement" has overtaken whatever joy there has been in our summertime. We shake our heads and wonder what got us to this point. The truth of the matter (as I see it, MHO only) is that we have lived for so long under a false coating of peaceful diversity when in fact racism has never really gone away. We elect a person of color to be president and there it goes, BAM! Out of the shadows the KKK (turned TEA) has erupted in angry off-the-wall and OPEN fear and loathing. It is dismaying to see this. The situation of immigration has fanned the flames of racism as well, with people being taught to fear anyone not like them, to decry these fellow humans as somehow taking away something to which only THEY are entitled, i.e. jobs, benefits, health care, education. The face on these people is decidedly BROWN or BLACK this time around. Forget the 20s and 30s when we feared the Irish or the Italians (though we did fear them, thinking the same thoughts "they're coming to take OUR jobs, apartments, schools, way of life). Forget the 50s and 60s when it was the Cubans or Puerto Ricans. Same thinking, same fears. Now it is a return to the slave days when Blacks were kept "in their place," but now there is mass media, social media, instant video feed, so we see it up close and in real time. Our rampant (and persistent) racism and xenophobia is on every TV or computer screen, on our phones as it happens. We can spin it, whitewash it, call it something else, or deny it is happening. We can wait for someone ELSE to fix it, or hope it goes away somehow. But it is not going away. When we as a nation, militarize our police, hand over control of daily life to fear, we will only go from bad to worse, and life as we know it (or thought we knew it) becomes a memory.

As usual, feeling frustrated at not being able to DO anything, I can only shine a light in the way I know best: through my writing. Therefore, yesterday, discouraged and angry, I penned this very uncomfortable poem.  Please, readers, see it as what it is: commentary. I do not hate police, but I do hate what some of them are doing. We need to see the drastic situation for what it is: a tipping point.

So here goes (the "we" of the poem implies the voice of society):


We’re killing black kids, young men
ready for college or just shopping the sales
at Wally World. We choke hold ‘em,
shoot ‘em, would lynch a few if we could,
and maybe it’s heading back to that.

We don’t like brown or black, too dark
for us ‘cept on the beach where we risk melanoma 
to get browner, but the palms of our hands 
stay lily white as we grip 
our weapons of choice for tonight. 

We make sure the cops are armed for this: 
semi-automatics, riot gear, tear gas 
for all. Don’t worry officer, ain’t no one
gonna give up your name after. 
We got your back, your white entitled back.

Hey you over there! Don’t you dare stand up,
hands up or not, just oughta stay the hell
in your place I say, one down 
or cowered back like your grandaddies did. 
You go tell your mama you did right.

We’re killing anyone and everyone
who don’t pray to the right Jesus, who ain’t 
gonna stay inside tonight. We coming 
for you, Mister Protester, Miss Civil Rights. 

We're gettin’ closer and closer. We’ll kill you all.


  1. Art reflects life. Thank you for writing about this, Carol Willette Bachofner. I envision you reading this aloud in a packed auditorium filled with police officers in uniform, all squirming in their seats at the truth. May the light of your words shine into dark corners, and change fear into compassion.

    1. Thnx LJ for your comment; I envision having to leave that auditorium in a disguise to keep from getting shot on the way out.

  2. Lela Northcross WakelyJuly 31, 2016 at 5:41 PM

    My reaction was "surprise". I wasn't expecting you to open up like that! This subject needs to be in poem, song, cartoon, play; any artform that can reach the public.