For the Ferguson & SLMPDs

by Valéria M. Souza Issue: Fall 2018
“I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.”
              -Final words of Michael Brown, Jr. on 8/9/14
Beneath the shimmering red
Seasons Greetings
banner swagging South Florissant Road

in Ferguson you hold the line,
polycarbonate riot shields
upright as headstones

proclaiming
POLICE POLICE POLICE
baton-bludgeon, helmet ready

white zip ties hooped
off bulletproof vests,
like jellyfish tentacles hanging

though on this night, as endless others,
your venom blooms forth
not by cnidocil or stylet

instead ejected metallic, crack
heavyweight
sizzling firework ecstatic

landscapes of canisters & spilt milk,
us crying over
streets (whose?) made choke aquarium.

You stand your ground,
don the latest tactical M50 gas masks &
thick as thieves

press us, bodies
to the glass
air tight

we breathe defiant, still
awed by haze of bleach vinegar gauze,
draped forecast acrid with a dash of mustard

meanwhile up Tiffin Ave
the sounds of your ranks
ring colossal:

YOU ARE UNLAWFULLY ASSEMBLED
YOU NEED TO DISPERSE IMMEDIATELY
DO IT NOW!!!

Dispersion a matter of interpretation,
the fires we light this November night
no match

for the blazing constellations of floodlights
you deploy to camouflage
civilian and cameraphone lenses alike,

blind all to press pass and unconscious momma,
neither of which is enough
to forestall the parade of ballistics ongoing

the white van glides through the crowd
side door slid open, carefree,
saddle off a wet horse

inside a cluster of National Guardsmen hunches
M16s slung friendly
as tanks idle steadfast in front of Walmart & McDonald’s

only the QuikTrip on West Florissant
becomes contested ground
our Tahrir Square, our Tiananmen Square

the QT People’s Park liberated 8/10/14
reads the inscription in black paint
where the logo used to be.


Valéria M. Souza

Valéria M. Souza holds a Ph.D. in Luso-Afro-Brazilian Studies and Theory and Disability Studies from UMass Dartmouth. She has lived in Boston, New York, Braga (Portugal), Middlebury (Vermont), and St. Louis (Missouri), where she was an active participant in #BlackLivesMatter and #FergusonFrontline protests for three years. At present, she works in the Human Services sector and resides with her wife in Mattapan, Massachusetts.