Mr. Africa Poetry Lounge!
Interview with a Policeman
You say you want this story
in my own words,
but you won't tell it my way.
Reporters never do.
If everybody's racist,
that means you too.
I grab your finger
as you jab it at my chest.
So what, the minicam caught that?
You want to know all about it, right? -
the liquor store, the black kid
who pulled his gun
at the wrong time.
You saw the dollars he fell on and bloodied.
Remember how cold it was that night,
but I was sweating.
I'd worked hard, I was through
for twenty-four hours,
and I wanted some brew.
When I heard a shout,
I turned and saw the clerk with his hands in the air,
saw the kid drop his gun
as I yelled and ran from the back.
I only fired when he bent down,
picked up his gun, and again dropped it.
I saw he was terrified,
saw his shoulder and head jerk to the side
as the next bullet hit.
When I dove down he got his gun once more
and fired wildly.
Liquor poured onto the counter, the floor
onto which he fell back finally,
still firing now toward the door,
when his arm flung itself behind him.
As I crawled toward him,
I could hear dance music
over the sound of liquor spilling and spilling,
and when I balanced on my hands
and stared at him, a cough or spasm
sent a stream of blood out of his mouth
that hit me in the face.
Later, I felt as if I'd left part of myself
stranded on that other side,
where anyplace you turn down,
is out for money, for drugs,
or just for something new like shoes
where your own rage
destroys everything in its wake,
Go on, set your pad and pencil down,
turn off the camera, the tape.
The ape in the gilded cage
looks too familiar, doesn't he,
and underneath it all,
like me, you just want to forget him.
Tonight, though, for a while you'll lie awake.
You'll hear the sound of gunshots
in someone else's neighborhood,
then, comforted, turn over in your bed
and close your eyes,
but the boy like a shark redeemed at last
will reenter your life
by the unlocked door of sleep
to take everything but his fury back.
Written by Ai (1947-2010)
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