#NationalPoetryMonth 25/30

the suspect is black & always in his early 20s

— from “the suspect is black & in his early 20s”

Today’s read: Nappy Edges* (*the roots of your hair/ what turns back when we sweat, run, make love, dance, get afraid, get happy: the tell-tale sign of living/) by Ntozake Shange – St. Martin’s Press – 1978

I was pulled over once in the Bronx in my late 20s. I had a busted taillight and knew it but it was the weekend. I figured I’d get fixed on Monday. A Latino cop pulled me over. He seemed a lot more interested that I was driving with two friends. Cop asked me to pump the brakes and the taillight worked. Cop was not happy. He asked me to do it again and the light worked again. Cop was really not happy. His partner told him to let it go but he cop was not having it. He finally let me pass. I checked a lil later and the light was definitely not working.
I don’t know why I got a pass on those days. I also don’t know why those particular Latinos were determined to get me those days.

One of my best friends in the Bronx grew up and became a cop. He always wanted to be a cop. He was that guy who when he saw someone skip a line or yell at someone smaller would step up and say something. Even before he had a badge. I remember talking to him about the first pull over. The one about the brake lights. “Oh, it’s because you were in the car with someone darker. It’s one of the first things you find out about in the force. They don’t teach it to you outright. It’s something you pick up. ‘Multiple passengers, different ethnicity, probable drug dealing.'” You serious? You can’t roll with no other homies in the ride? “You can. And you’ll get pulled over. Just a question of time. Don’t worry though. Show em that mini badge I gave you and tell them you are my half-brother.” I did and cop still wanted to write me up for a stupid busted light. “I know. Cops be on some bullshit.”

We stayed friends for a long time but he let me know that over time he wasn’t feeling it. He started to realize that where once he had some cop friends, and would go to some cop events that soon all he had was cop friends and all he was going to was cop events. Same story with his wife. She found herself surrounded by cop wives while at cop parties talking about what its like being married to a cop.

He eventually left New York and made a switch in his life. We’ve connected on and off through the years. I am sure if he read the above poem, the refrain, the historical framing, and that it’s all still the same he would same the same thing to me: “I know. Cops be on some bullshit.”

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