Last July Evening

Orleans Parish Prison – July 12, 2006, approx. 10:45pm – three of us were conducting exit interviews of people who had been arrested & jailed. Seeing if they were getting water, food, how long they were kept, if they were harassed, how many people per cell, conditions of cells, etc.


The sloppy words below were written entirely in less than five minutes about 15-20 min after a friend’s arrest* for:

“disturbing the peace”


view from the sidewalk

Between the door and the sidewalk

Trash bins on the wall, insides full

Of cig cartons, soda cups, fuckin’ trash.

Drive-in spattered in grunge, oil spilled

Butts, and and unjust footprints stamped

By those in uniforms & boots.

Where minutes earlier

Ricky put in cuffs,

Why? For asking why.

For asking why a cop is breakin’ the law.

For asking why a cop presents no evidence

On who complains against his company.

There was no harassment, as he claimed,

Drinks were brought, discourse & conversation

In low, controlled voices,

Sympathy & empathy of attentive ears & understanding nods,

Until Henry asked us to leave,

Giving no rational reason for us to obey,

We, and all the others who came before us

To support the mistreated trumped-up arrested,

Have a right to be in that room,

That white, hot, fly-ridden, godforsaken room

And sit amid loved ones of those ill kept

In holding pens and chained to polls,

Bruised and forbidden water or medical attention for hours.


Ricky on the fast track last we heard,

His arrest illegal like many others—

For merely walking, suspected of wrong,

Traffic violations & speeding;

But what PRIVILEGE white folks have

When he can get out in half, in a quarter of the time.

Of course you take it, right?

Any wrong should—no—must be corrected,

But why yours more than others

Never let that privilege, that fast track,

That sign of your skin, that sign of your power

Built through an inhumane system

Of value of skin over hundreds of years,

Never let that satisfy you,

Let your rage find form to deconstruct

The power they think they wield.


*he was eventually released after two hours in a jail cell. he pled not guilty and walked free after a court date in which no police witnesses appeared.

Published in: on August 8, 2007 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

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