Monday, October 26, 2015

Mistakes (Monday Poem)

by Shane Book

The nightstick hooks under my armpits.
Don't fucking move, he yells again and yanks.
My chin grinds my chest, knees leave the ground
and then I'm pavement slammed. My mistake is

the cigarette. The way I walk. A smirk.
I should've dropped the smoke the moment flashing
red lights began to re-graffiti that
cinder-block wall. Before the gun led blue-

sleeved arms, face twisted pink, words corkscrewing
the night air: turn around, hands out slow, I
said slow -- from the car's dark insides.
My mistake is putting out a foot to stub

the cigarette, instead of kneeling right
away. I shouldn't wear these colors. If
I'd just said nothing. I said nothing. I
knelt, hands on head. Rubber gloves gripped my

right wrist, a clink, cold metal, and in two
rough moves he swung my right arm down, my left,
and clink, I was cuffed, and clicking sounds
cut into my wrists. My mistake is walking

the streets at dusk. My mistake is locking
eyes. Should have run. No I shouldn't. He paused.
Behind. His shadow crossed mine then not.,
mine then not, in the swinging squad car lights.

Now my ear's pressed to the street. Mashed condom
by my chin. I don't feel anything at first.
Smell tar, dog shit. Then the whole side of my
face burns. My tongue checks for loose teeth. A boot

on my back. Asphalt cold. At eye level:
the other boot, a crushed Coke can. He asks
me what I'm doing here. It's hard to breathe.

from Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation, edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer & Lynn Melnick, 2015, Viking

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