kenneth chamberlain sr

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Another Unoriginal Poem about Police Brutality

By David James Hudson
(Full transcription below the cut)

You have heard this poem before.

You have heard the unoriginal repetitious poetics of a shot –

of a shot –

of a shot singeing the night air – of

shell casings on concrete and cases of claims of

standard police procedure – of cases of batons that leave

red and

white and

blue on

black and

bullets in brown bodies and

bullets in sleeping bodies and

bullets in running bodies and

bullets in bodies holding umbrellas or

holding pens or

holding other things that look like guns or

reaching for – he was

reaching for – they say she was

reaching for some expectation of dignity, service, and protection –

 

This is an unoriginal poem about police brutality.

 

You will hear the same sets of metaphors once more: white

security, verdicts of

innocence, inconsequential bodies of

evidence, ballistics and emergency lights,

repetitious, circling around and around like

circular stories like

unoriginal poems like

a red stream of consciousness flowing through senses punctured like

sentences punctuated with

bullet-like precision again and

again and

again and

again and

again –

 

There is really nothing new here.

 

This is as unoriginal as a mundane untouched sheet of white paper or

granddad’s white Klan sheets untouched in closets beside uniforms or

uniform otherwise spotless records –

 

You have heard these uniform stories before, I imagine.

 

Why write, then? Why

bother? Why

do pens and

tongues and

lungs feel so heavy when

stories seem to repeat themselves?

 

Entertainment markets demand innovation.

 

The same story again and

again gets old, we are

told. We’d rather plug our ears and so

there is silence in

waiting for

newness to

appear –

 

silence

 

like the eerie stillness of

prisons and profits of

plantations and poverty churned out in

steady cycles of factory-like

production – call it run-of-the-mill:

 

not poetic, but prosaic

 

like the still persistence of

the largest private prison corporation traded

on the New York Stock Exchange like

the silence of stock ticker tapes circulating at the bottom

of TV screens – an economics of

morbidity – a market that demands

an endless supply of unremarkable names –

 

like Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.

like Amadou Diallo

like Sammy Yatim

like Fredy Villanueva

like Kathryn Johnston

like John T. Williams

like Yvette Smith

like Jeffrey Reodica

like Sean Bell

like John Joseph Harper

like Oscar Grant

like Chavis Carter

like Jordan Baker

like LaTanya Haggerty

like Jean Charles de Menezes

like Rumain Brisbon

like Ramarley Graham

like Kajieme Powell

like Miriam Carey

like Husein Shehada

like Jonathan Ferrell

like Victor White III

like John Crawford III

like John Adams

like Tanesha Anderson

like Darrien Hunt

like Aiyana Stanley-Jones

like Jack Lamar Roberson

like Ezell Ford

like Matthew Dumas

like Michael Brown

like Eric Garner

like Tamar Rice

like Jermaine Carby

like Neil Stonechild

like –  

 

Are you tired yet?

 

Then set your aesthetics aside. There is no originality in these pages.  The same old stories out there mean the same old stories here, so this will stop being cliché when that stops being cliché – when clichés are no longer scripted in blood stuttering  like   last    breaths     along      sidewalks.

 

Until then, chalk this up as

one more outline, another empty

shell of a thing, just one more

unoriginal poem –