Christopher Soto (b. 1991, Los Angeles) is a poet based in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of Sad Girl Poems (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016) and the editor of Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color (Nightboat Books, 2018). For more information visit: christophersoto-poet.com.
1492 Columbus arrived in America & // I can’t find record of prisons existing here
1704 Slave Patrols formed [to catch runaways] & wore STARS to demarcate themselves.
1783 One of the first colonies to abolish slavery was Massachusetts.
____________Abolition was thought to be a radical idea.
1838 The first police agency began in Massachusetts // they wore copper STARS.
____________The police were called “coppers” // which later became “cops.”
1865 After the Civil War // slavery ended in the United States // the number of police
____________departments & prisons grew.
1971 This poem won’t say “War on Drugs” or “Mass Incarceration.” // It won’t discuss
____________prisons in relation to the pharmaceutical // or military industrial complexes.
2017 I know prisons will become passé someday // yet I fear deeper data collection
____________& predictive policing // & house arrests // will control the public.
2500 Future child // in our andromeda the STARS won’t shoot or die // or belong to
____________cops. I hope you’re reckless with your joy.
POLICE KILLED MY NEIGHBOR
On his doormat // fifteen footsteps from my bed
______The bullet’s // auburn cologne // I could smell it &
____________After the first shot // there were fireflies // smoke
__________________After the gunshots // I fell to the floor // & scrabbled
Like a soldier // into the living room (or dying room)
______Huddled in the corner // where stray bullets can’t
____________Reach // don’t look out the window // someone
__________________Once told me // with an anchor // on their breath // Oh!
Lord // they’ll shoot if they see a witness // meaning me
______Police killed my neighbor // & I didn’t know his name
____________Until the moon went to sleep // Antonio Clements
__________________Is this war or genocide // America used these guns
To kill terrorists abroad // & terror is how we live
______The ambulance lights // pirouetting like ballerinas
____________I peeked out the window // sleep is too fragile & breaks
__________________[A man was mourning] on the street // crying & trying
To pull off his shirt // he fell onto the pavement // then
______Police began walking towards him // guns holstered by
____________Their waists // & all I could think was // Fuck, not again
__________________Who will protect us from the police // if not ourselves