Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Saturday, January 28, 2023


by L. Smith

56 baton blows.
6 neck kicks.
5 white officers.
A broken leg. Multiple facial fractures. Bruises. Contusions. Laser gun burns.
Worse than Rodney King?
If only we could ask Rodney King—
King who was jumped with expert-level lack of restraint and professional lack of protocol by five white officers—Koon, Powell, Wind, Briseno, and Solano—
King who was jumped so well and so wildly, with his body writhing with each raging blow, that all semblance of protect and serve faded to black.
And, 32 years post “the-video-that-changed-everything-and-nothing,”
A new video we watch—we waited to watch, sat on edge for its release while it was advertised and hyped up like it was the big fight—a new
video we watch
to rank and to compare
two police beatings
32 years apart
of motorists. Unarmed black men.
King and Nichols, both jumped initiation style by blue-cloaked vigilantes
and folks are watching and analyzing blows like this is the big match up.
Ranking police beatings? 
Is this the pic-a-nic culture of the not too distant south?
Worse than Rodney King?
If only we could ask Rodney King—  
Here’s a thought:
Was disciplinary action against the
5 white officers who beat Rodney King
worse than the disciplinary action against the
5 black officers—Haley, Mills, Martin III, Smith, and Bean—who beat Nichols?
5 black officers swiftly dealt with—
dealt with in a way that’s worse than
5 white officers who beat Rodney King—
5 black officers swiftly fired for excessive use of force,
Failing to intervene and
failing to render aid.
32 years ago, we had
5 indictments.
5 acquittals.
3 days of violence.
60 people killed.
Thousands injured.
Millions of dollars of property destroyed.
32 years post “the-video-that-changed-everything-and-nothing” we again have
1 unarmed black man
1 traffic stop
5 officers
1 brutal beating
1 unarmed motorist who was not so lucky.
“Rodney King was lucky.”
Was he really, though?
56 baton blows?
6 neck kicks?
5 white officers?
A broken leg? Multiple facial fractures? Bruises? Contusions? Laser gun burns?
Constitutional rights violated is luck?
Assault times five is luck?
“Rodney King lived.”
Did he though?
32 years apart from each other, are
2 motorists—unarmed, black men
brutally beaten by
5 officers
while traffic-stopped and the world later watched
and ranked and forgot the
five white acquitted officers—Koon, Powell, Wind, Briseno, and Solano—who jumped Rodney King.
Worse than Rodney King?
If only you could focus on the right scales.

Lynette Smith, a New Orleans native, is a writer, multi-certified, English and master reading teacher, who has freelanced for local newspapers. She has an anthology of poems and prose set to publish spring 2023 that her mother and daughter created space for her to write. She also has begun this blog for writer teachers.