The poems contained herein were created from the content of online chats found in neighborhood posts of residents of the near northern suburbs of Minneapolis.  The focus is the killing of Duante Wright by a Brooklyn Center Police Office and the subsequent protests.

My creative process is to first glean the poetic potential of the words, phrases and rhetorical gestures used by individuals in their posts to a neighborhood social media platform.  I then synthesize material from different groups into poems that seem to represent the overall angst and pathos of the community.  I see this work as a script for a possible documentary theatre piece.

The work is in eight chapters and the poetry takes the form of monologues (in straight type) and dialogues (in italics).  There are no defined characters, but it is evident that we are hearing the voices of both white and African-American residents, men and women.  It is also apparent that the work is witness to a community trying to process a sudden social trauma eclipsing the ongoing pandemic. 

 

A Day in the Life

We need volunteers to help with cats. 

Feed, provide water, clean litter boxes, 

and play…with cats. 

Meow Manor is a non-profit feline rescue. 

 

Tornado sirens.

Be alert and stay aware.

Make a plan with your family 

Where to go in your house in the event of a tornado. 

Typically a basement room without windows.

 

I was putting it off, 

But I really would like to put up a yard sign

That says Black Lives Matter.” 

 

Hey that's great! 

I suppose it’s "Better Late Than Never"  

 

I have T-shirts that say that.

 

“Black Lives Matter?”

 

No, “Better Late than Never.” 

A friend of mine makes them.

 

It seems like a car is stolen 

Around here every day.

It has to stop.   

Everybody please keep watch in our neighborhood.

 

This is why defunding the police is a stupid idea.  

Without the police our property values would plummet. 

 

Has a coyote ever “followed” you when walking your dog in the park?

Perhaps you feared the coyote was going to attack you.

But don’t be afraid. 

Coyotes often engage in a behavior called “escorting”. 

Escorting happens when they see you and your dog as a threat to their young. 

Being fearful doesn’t help.

Act from the standpoint of knowledge.

 

Sirens on 63rd Ave. 

Hey everyone. 

Does anyone know what happened this afternoon on 63rd?

A ton of emergency vehicles blocked the street. 

 

When I hear sirens, I want to pray.

It sounded really serious. 

Hope no one was hurt.

 

It was a car crash and someone got shot.

 

An officer involved shooting, I heard.

 

So, that’s why the ‘CCO helicopter was circling overhead. 

 

I pray everyone is okay.

 

Thanks for praying.

 

I pray, too.

 

There was a news conference on TV. 

They said a twenty year-old Black guy was killed by police.

 

During a traffic stop.

His name was Daunte Wright.

 

Such a young man.

It makes you sick.

 

An angry crowd is gathering

To protest

In front of the Brooklyn Center Police Station.

 

Oh, no! Dammit!

I hope we’re not facing another lock down like last summer! 

 

Praise God. 

People pass me on the street corner on Sunday morning. 

Sitting in my folding chair, I wave to everybody, 

wearing my sign "Jesus Loves You",

Many wave back, or honk horns…

One insisted I take money

But I told him to give it to Jesus. 

Someone gave me a hot cup of coffee. 

It is great to serve the Lord 

And see how much friendlier people have become.Watch the cam footage.

“Step Out of Car.”

I’ve watched it many times. 

He resists arrest. 

“I’m going to break outta here!” 

He pulls away from the officers. 

Reentered his vehicle. 

Then, ‘taser, taser, taser!’ 

The woman police officer fires once.

He takes off after being shot.  

‘Holy shit, I shot him!”

Makes it a few blocks

And crashes into another car. 

He is pronounced dead at the scene.

He did nothing to get pulled over,

Except being black in America. 

It’s the crime for which our brothers and sisters are being killed. 

 

 Look, everyone knows, African Americans commit

A lot of violent crimes in our city. 

The police expect trouble, and they usually get it. 

Cops are just people with a shitty job to do.

 

Please say: ‘It is only my opinion.’

Don’t act like you’re stating a fact 

Because you’re not.  Not at all.

African-Americans are killed by police 

Over twice as much as whites.

But we’re only 12% of the population.

 

The police chief claims it was an “involuntary discharge”.  

The officer meant to draw her taser, not her gun.

 

That’s a bunch of BS.  

Cops carry their taser and Ruger on opposite sides

So something like this doesn’t happen.  

 

Racism and white paranoia are alive and well in this town.

It’s that simple.

It’s that simple.

Police are simply nervous people carrying guns: 

 “I thought it was my taser.”

 “I thought his cell phone was a gun”

 “I thought he was getting’ smart with me.”

Etc… etc…

 

So, an experienced cop’s 

Boneheaded mistake cost this young man his life.

Do you think she’ll be held accountable? 

 

Absolutely.

 

She’ll be charged tomorrow.

 

She will be convicted of a crime, that’s for sure.

 

A prison sentence is the final accountability. 

 

As for the dead young man, 

Don’t act like he was an angel. 

He had an outstanding warrant, and resisted arrest.

That’s not being accountable for your actions.

More than that, it’s downright criminal.

 

and now this happens…

What happened to Daunte Wright makes me very angry. 

MN has learned nothing over the last year.

Don't even try to argue with me about it. 

It's not okay to shoot and kill someone for a minor traffic violation.

Especially if he’s just a kid.

Bottom line:

They killed him because he was black. 

How many times have they done it before?

And this time, how will we react?

 

I'm not really sure how to react.  

We live in a world where, 

People make mistakes. 

God knows, I for one am not perfect. 

All of us make mistakes.

Some mistakes are more serious than others,

And, yes, 

People suffer the consequences

…or die, even.

 

All of us make mistakes.

 

Mistakes????  For God’s sake!

Mixing up a gun and a taser sounds fucked up if you ask me.

I think the police make far too many fucking mistakes around here!!

 

All of us make mistakes.

 

I don’t use expletives  

But I do use question marks appropriately.

Perfection is a goal but is it realistic? 

Officer Kim Potter shot and killed a 20yr old man 

Because she mistook her firearm for a taser. 

Twenty-six years of “training and experience” and she still screwed up.     

Her exact mistake has been made by other officers in other cities across the country.

Is it that just human error?  

Or is it racism?

Or is it both?

 

All of us make mistakes.

 

What if it happened to your child or someone you love?

How would you react? 

Just how forgiving would you be?   

My recommendation for you is to develop some empathy.

 

The tragic reality we live in.

We’re trying to get justice for George Floyd .. and now this happens… 

We’re literally experiencing trauma

And we don't need this kind of back and forth. 

Institutional racism has raised its ugly head

Like it’s Godzilla!

And we must face it together.    

 

We have met the enemy

And it is us.

That is all I have to say. 

 

You seem like a really good and insightful person. 

Thanks for giving me a different perspective to think about!

I bet the world would be a better place

 If there were more people like you.  

However…not to nit pick…, but,,, 

He did resist arrest.

 

There you go with that same old stuff:

 ‘If only he complied with police orders.’

You don’t get it.

If you grew up having friends and family killed by police,

Only because of the color of their skin,

You’d feel the need to resist, too.

 

The shooting had nothing to do with his race.

No matter what color your skin,

You don’t fight the police

And try to flee…ever.

 

If you're African-American 

You might as well flip a coin,

Heads cooperate…tails don’t.  

Neither insures you'll be alive in the end. 

That is the tragic reality we live in.

 

That's the tragic reality we live in.

 

Listen, you’re all wrong.

I’m an active duty veteran

And I can tell most of you don’t have the foggiest idea

What it’s like for a police officer on the street.

I would never put the blame for all social ills on them.  

 

Come on, man. 

Daunte Wright didn’t deserve to be shot. 

Period. 

Don’t tell me you’re not suffering from white privilege 

When you imply there are two sides to the story.

You are missing the entire point.

 

Interesting, to say the least.

So, you’d expect nothing to happen 

When resisting arrest and attempting to flee? 

If they had a weapons warrant for you,

I would certainly expect nothing good to come of it.

 

Why couldn’t the officers just back off? 

Ever hear of de-escalation? 

Let him drive away and see what happens.  

You can always arrest him later under safer circumstances.  

 

 Wow...that’s an embarrassing suggestion.

 

Sometimes we need to start over.

I don’t know why he ran

But he didn’t have to die for it.

You can’t normalize killing a person for not complying with the police.

Not obeying the police is always an option. 

The police are here to serve and protect you.

Even guilty people don’t deserve to be killed by cops 

Because they are not judge, jury, and executioner.

 

I want to abolish the police, 

This system was designed to control marginalized communities.

 

Sometimes we need to start over.

 

I know people will go on and on about all the “good cops”, 

But are they good just to other white people? 

 

Sometimes we need to start over. 

 

We need a system that recognizes mental health as a core issue

Police are not equipped to handle.

 

Your comments are the epitome of ignorance.

Putting the blame on the police 

Is absolute garbage.

You’re not wanted here.

You blame the police for everything 

And then burn down the city. 

 I just can’t stand blatantly ignorant people.

They’re not worth my time.

 You’re the WORST.

 

You win, sir. Your opinion and voice are the truth. Amen

Just admit you’re a racist and be done with it.

Not a realist.

No, just a disgusting racist piece of shit.

Instant karma is gonna get you.

You're life must be so unhappy & bitter.

 

The fact that you chose to demonize me reflects the hardness in your heart. 

I wish nothing but the best for our country

 

You’re absurd, and everyone sees it.

 

Sometimes we need to start over.

 

Reason and the Truth

My parents taught me to respect authority, 

And do whatever I’m asked to do. 

But I have to talk to my own children about 

The danger they face

Simply because they’re of mixed race.  

My children are scared of the very people

Who are supposed to protect all of us.

People shouldn’t even try to say 

There’s no racism in the USA‼️

 

This is disgusting!  

So much anger everywhere.  

The news media stokes the fire,

And everyone’s ok with that?

 

We are being propagandized to.

How can we ever get to the truth?

 

We can’t, and that’s the truth.

We should all take our own actions.

 

Shame on you.

Protesting in a negative way benefits no one.

In fact, we should all be mourning the breakdown of society 

And the destruction of our beautiful state.

I believe we all have the brain power to come up with positive ideas 

And leave the world a better place than we found it.

 

Thank you, Jessica, finally a voice of reason and peace.

 

Please do not talk of peace, 

And dreaming about a world where people are judged by the content of their character

Rather than the color of their skin.

It can get you killed.

 

Gestapo

The police are a deadly force roaming our streets. 

Driving thru the neighborhood in squad cars –

to Black people in America 

They seem like an occupying army.

When you’ve been profiled and pulled over, 

You can be nervous, angry or scared shitless. 

It’s their Gestapo mentality. 

I mean, I’ve known since I was young 

That police kill Black men, women and children.  

 

 

Evening of the Day

This evening

 I was walking my dog 

And I heard three or four loud… popping noises.

 

I heard it too,

It sounded like gunshots. 

 

It was tear gas canisters being fired at protesters

In Brooklyn Center.

We were watching the protest live stream on YouTube.

 

My grandfather won't be on his corner

This Sunday or in the near future.

It's getting too dangerous, 

The drug store's windows were broken last night.

Let us please hold each other tight, 

And stay safe.

 

There's looting going on at the Target store across the way!

 

Nooooooo!!!! Damn!

Did anyone call the police?