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Saturday, June 06, 2020


by Katherine West

"But it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station—including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day—to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”  —Barack Obama, May 29, 2020

There is a door—
someone has left it open
just a little bit
so a band of light
runs along the floor
to where we stand in the dark
touches the feet
of the first in line

I can tell this makes them happy
even though their backs are to me
something about the relaxed
line of their shoulders
the ease of the way they turn their heads
this way
then that
it won't be long now

The band of light
doesn't touch my feet—
I'm about halfway down the line
even if I stood on tiptoe
or craned my neck to one side
I couldn't get a good view
through the door

So I look at the line—
it starts out white with reflected light
then gets darker and darker
the further away it reaches
down the dim hall where we wait—
the first in line are clear cut
their collars
their buttons
outlined in light
but the ones behind me blur
into a single

I wait for someone to step out of this cloud
to show me details
beautiful details
of finger and face
soft lips
the curve of forehead
I wait for the music
of speech
for an empty space
inside me
to fill

Then I feel it
a weight
in the space that is not empty
a weight that shifts
like a child
impatient to be born—
then it kicks
something bursts
and I see
hundreds of eyes meeting mine—
candles, stars, constellations...
we all move at the same time and the line
is broken

Katherine West lives in Southwest New Mexico, near the Gila Wilderness, where she writes poetry about the soul-importance of wilderness, performs it with her musician husband, Yaakov, and teaches seasonal poetry workshops that revolve around "wilderness writing."  She has written three collections of poetry: The Bone Train, Scimitar Dreams, and Riddle, as well as one novel, Lion Tamer.  Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Lalitamba, Bombay Gin, and TheNewVerse.News  which recently nominated her poem "And Then the Sky" for a Pushcart Prize.