Dear Officer (A Poem for Walter Scott)

 In Poems

Dear Officer,
I am a 12 year old white boy.
Thank you knowing these toy guns
we suburban boys have painted black
to look like real guns
are just toys.
Thank you for knowing
that this cul-de-sac game of war
is not a real war,
just boys playing.

Dear Officer,
I am a 25 year old white guy
getting pulled over.
Thank you for not ruining
this Valentine’s Day date with my girlfriend,
even though, yeah,
I did have one or two glasses of wine at dinner.
I’ll be much more careful next time.

Dear Officer,
thank you for the warning.

Dear Officer,
thank you for the second chance.

Dear Officer,
thank you for the reduced fine.
You have a good day too, sir.

Dear Officer Michael T. Slager
of the North Charleston Police Department.
You murdered a man three miles
from the high school where I once taught English.

In our class poetry slams,
my students were masters of metaphor,
my block is a battlefield
my back is a bulls eye,
my life is a gun
the safety is broken
and in the space of a breath
it might go off
and leave someone breathless.

Dear Officer,
I am a 30 year old white man.
Let’s be honest.
If it had been me you stopped
for a broken tail light,
you wouldn’t have to tell me to remain silent
for my skin would speak for me.

My skin says:

My skin says:
Don’t our wives
go to the same yoga class?
Don’t our boys play
on the same little league team?

My skin says:
We grew up on the same street,
go to the same church,
believe in the same God.

My skin says:
I matter.

My skin says:
I’m alive.

Dear Officer,
what did Walter Scott’s body say?

His lungs sung a love song to life
just like yours do.
His blood’s beat was a call and response
to the beating of God’s own heart,
just like yours is.
Walter Scott’s soul said I matter, I’m alive.

Or could you not hear,
over the sound of rounds popping in the air
the crunch of body falling to earth,
the scream of Southern soil
drenched in centuries
of black blood?

Dear Officer,
I am a 30 year old white man
and my life has always mattered.

It is time
everyone else’s
did too.

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