Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Because grand juries do not hear cross-examinations, I have embarked on my own. The first came after the Ferguson grand jury refused to indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown in August:

Define "clean conscience." Define "conscience." Define "do your job right." Define "your job." Define "survival." Define "normal life." Define "haunting." Define "hungry ghost." Define "suffering." Define "something that happened." Define "Hulk Hogan." Define "5-year old." Define "powerful." Define "jerk" (as in body hit by bullet). Define "jerk" (as in not). Define "fear." Define "looking straight through me." Define "as if I wasn't there." Define "bruise." Define "fatal punch." Define "10 shots." Define "the demeanor on his face went blank." Define sociopath. Try to define pathos. Try sorrow. Try justice.

That poem, written as a facebook status line, is now part of a virtual chapbook by Hawai`i Review, which you can find here. Contained inside the chapbook is poetry of occasion, urgent occasion.

And this evening, I wrote this in response to the non-indictment of police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner on a street on Staten Island in July.

Define "reasonable cause." Take a breath. Define "miscarriage of justice." Your mind will wander, and that’s OK. Define "compression of neck, compression of chest and prone positioning." It’s a gentle thing, the breath. Define "chokehold." You pay attention to the quality of the breath, and your body as your chest rises and falls. Define "captured on video" and "his voice muffled in the pavement." You return to the breath, and the anxieties are forgotten for a second as you see the breath. Define "arms up in the air." Define "just leave me alone." You go back to the breath, and notice the body, and your surroundings, all perfect in this moment. Define "the police is our problem." The self and its fears and desires and anxieties and urges return, then you go back to the breath and they’re gone. Define "feeling very bad." Like the ebb and flow of tides, the self and the moment surge back and forth, with you caught up in the waves between them. Define "the time for remorse was." You stay with the breath for a moment, and for that moment … you are no longer there. Define "in mortal danger." Define "please don't touch me." There’s just the breath, the body, and all that’s around you. 

from CNN, New York Times, and Zen Habits (How to Breathe)

Drawing by Joy Enomoto for the cover of Write for Ferguson

No comments: