I’ve seen that incensed expression before
Felt the violence it harbours
That predatory, baleful glare
Scrutinizing points of vulnerability
As you begin to intimidate me and snarl
And I’m already on the defence
Ever vigilant, ever tense
Braced for the raised fist, the shove, the slur
Jarred from conflict to conflict
I’ve seen you clad in black vests
Bearing riot shields and handcuffs
Erupting in sparks of tasers
Surging forth in barrages of batons
Stalking through mists of CS gas
Displacing and dispossessing and devastating
I’ve seen you in fascists marching the streets
Hurling bottles, punches, venomous vitriol
Phalanxes of cops guarding your ranks
Guaranteeing your safety
Until the lines mingle and blur
‘Facilitating’ – participating in – your strategy
To control the streets through force
And menace the marginalized
Police lights coalescing into brandished union jacks
I’ve seen you command the spaces of buses and trains
With disapproving stares
Cruel and humiliating remarks
Belligerently reminding us that we are other
Unwelcome, a pestilence, lesser
Weak and decadent and impostor
Deviant to be punished
Malfunction of nature to be forcibly cured
Legitimate target to be preyed upon
For nation, for pride, for power
I see you in flags still casting a shroud
Over occupied and colonized lands
I see you in glacial prison cells
Devoid of humanity and compassion
I see you in love, manipulated and contorted
Into another territory to be conquered, another weapon.
I’ve seen that expression as police descended
And bludgeoned us with a grin.
I’ve seen it reflected in handcuffs
Sealed on to damaged wrists.
I’ve seen it etched in scars
That overlap until I cannot trace the contours
And I blame my fragility and recklessness.
I want to wear an eyeliner that doesn’t feel stained
I want to construct myself
Out of more than fragments of pain.
I want more of a choice than
To be either martyr or coward.
I want to do more than wait on guard
Railing against the shadows
Desperate for those moments clustered around campfires:
The smoke gathers and advances upon forbidding mires
As we search for ourselves amidst loss and ruin
In retreat even as we earnestly stand our ground
Shivering, still, among the echoes of fusillades
Recalling the lost, tending to the injured
And never truly recovering
With even triumph a prelude to mourning.
I fear every crack is a fissure
And dare not wonder how deeply they course
How this hurt engraves itself and lingers.
I see you everywhere
Every quarter claimed
Encircled, until I police myself
And remember my place
Outside your reign.