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Friday, January 08, 2021


by David Southward

Officer Sheskey feared for his life;
thinking that Jacob clutched a knife,
he shot, shot, shot in self-defense,
assured of his own innocence.
No charge was brought: who would convict
a fear too sane to contradict,
when video (which carries clout)
leaves wiggle room for reasoned doubt?

Jacob also feared for his life;
seeing the gunmen, he knew his knife 
would prove no use in self-defense.
He knew no black man’s innocence
is ever presumed, that courts convict 
the captured, suavely contradict
their stories, summon legal clout
to silence them with reasoned doubt.
David Southward teaches in the Honors College at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is the author of Apocrypha (Wipf & Stock 2018) and Bachelor’s Buttons (Kelsay Books 2020), and winner of the 2019 Frost Farm Prize for Metrical Poetry.