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Monday, January 08, 2018


by Pepper Trail

When the police surrounded a house in Wichita, Kan., late Thursday, they expected to find a gunman who told a 911 dispatcher that he was holding his mother and brother at gunpoint after shooting his father in the head. But no crime had been committed at that house, and the man who would be fatally shot by an officer moments later was not the person who had called. The suspected caller, who was arrested on Friday and has a history of making false police reports, was actually about 1,300 miles away, in Los Angeles. Both the Wichita police and the man in the house were pawns in a hoax called “swatting,” in which people report made-up crimes in hopes of creating a spectacle and getting a SWAT team deployed. —The New York Times, December 31, 2017. Photo: An image from body-camera footage showing the fatal shooting of Andrew Finch, 28, by a Wichita police officer in the swatting hoax. —Wichita Police Department

I do not want
            do not want to live

in a country where it is possible
for the digitally demented to phone in
            an order
            for a police murder

and where the SWAT
the Special Weapons And Tactics team

            drives to the arbitrary house
surrounds it
            orders the confused and peaceable
man to come out
            of his quiet home
            with his hands up
and when he does not
                        or does not
quickly and obediently enough
            they shoot him


For this to be a thing that happens
            that happens again

how many layers of disconnection,
            of inhumanity
            of reflexive violence

must be laid down, deposited like ash
must settle upon us
take on our forms as we ourselves
            trapped inside, suffocate, die
            decompose, and leave behind nothing

but the shells of the human beings we were
            our arms outflung
            our eyes wide with terror
            our mouths twisted open
crying out, struck dumb

Pepper Trail is a conservation biologist, poet, and photographer living in Ashland, Oregon. His poems have appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Pedestal, and other publications, and have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Awards. His collection, Cascade-Siskiyou, was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.