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Wednesday, January 31, 2024


by Susan Vespoli
I wanted my son back. 
I wanted the cop who shot him 
to be held accountable. I wanted my son 
to be standing here wearing his Pure-Heart 
t-shirt, handing out food boxes. I wanted him 
to ask for more light clothes for Christmas,
more white socks because he believed light colors 
would help him stay clean. I wanted another cross
for him to carry—mosaic-ed in fractured glass—
another coffee date at Starbucks, another tour 
of his apartment furnished with found lamps 
and a found statue of a bear holding a fish 
that says “Welcome.” I wanted his voice
saying “I love you, Mom,” his fingers 
texting me photos of geese and cats 
and quail eggs laid in a ceramic swan.

What I got was a wrongful death lawsuit, 
a deposition where I was shamed and blamed 
by an eye-rolling smirking bitch of a City 
of Phoenix lawyer who mocked my 12-step beliefs, 
asking sarcastically,     “Did it help?”    
I got my Facebook account invaded by the cop’s 
legal team, two of my poetry books used as evidence 
against my son. I got a gag order—no more speaking 
about or publishing poems about the loss or the case, 
two canceled poetry readings. I got a t-shirt that says: 
“Make art in the face of fuck.” I got the face of fuck. 
I got a pen and more notebooks because the cop’s lawyers 
confiscated my journals and I write anyway and I write anyway 
and I still believe good will prevail. Still believe the spirit of Adam 
stands among us, that his words “I think god has another plan for my life”
will ring and ring and crack the wrecking ball of the cops’ denial 
and out of the shatter—will glow my son’s smile, his essence, his light.

Author’s Note by Susan Vespoli: City of Phoenix is squirming about the upcoming results of the DOJ’s two-year investigation into their use of excessive force, high number of police killings, and unfair treatment of the homeless. The City claims they don’t need oversight. I, as the mother of an unarmed man shot and killed by police on March 12, 2022, shout: “YES. THEY. DO.”

Editor’s Note: The New Verse News has published a number of the poems written by Susan Vespoli in the aftermath of the killing by Phoenix police of her son Adam:   "Before I Knew Adam Had Died,”  "My Ex-Husband Calls… ,"   … In Reverse,” “I Am Finally Handed… ,” “Under Investigation… ,” “Dear 2022,” Poem for My Middle Finger,” Dear Gag Order,”