How to Not Get Killed by the NYPD

Metta Sáma


When you see the pitch-perfect black 4-door shaded windows roll
up on you, don’t grip your wheel. Casually look over your shoulder
as a shaded window slips down. Don’t think drive-by. Don’t remember
history. It’s only the police. Keep your hands on the wheel. In plain
view. It’s the police. Keep your hands on the wheel. The light will turn
in your favor. Don’t drive off. Keep your hands on the wheel. Wait,
with your left foot pressed hard on the clutch, right foot pressed lightly
on the brake. Hands on the wheel. Raise an eyebrow when the police
officer raises a question: what’s the speed limit in New York City? Note:
the correct answer is 30, no matter the street, no matter the avenue,
no matter the faster moving highway traffic, the answer is 30           30.
Don’t ask him to clarify. Don’t smile. You are anxious. You will smile.
Don’t explain when asked why you’re smiling. Don’t explain
your explanation when asked why you’re explaining. Don’t say:
we’re blocking the road. Don’t say: we’re triple-parked.
Don’t ask them to clarify the infraction. You are the infraction.
Don’t remove your hands from the wheel. Accept
that you were pulled over. Accept the fact of the two fingers patting
the badge. Accept the hostile forehead, the condescension of the mouth.
Accept the fact of the wheel, troubling your hands. Accept their power. Nod
when they repeat: we could give you a summons. Over & over & over
they will repeat this. Summons. Summons. Summons. We could give you—.
The light will turn yellow. Red. Don’t read the lights as a sign. The light
will turn green again. Don’t let them see your jaw set in irritation. Accept
their power. Don’t remember the history of police brutality in New York. Keep
your hands in plain view. They shoot you in New York. 41 times.
4 times. In your grandmother’s bathroom, they will shoot you. In front
of your house, they will call you burglar and shoot you. Don’t remember
any of this. Don’t ask them questions. Don’t nod your head. Keep your hands
on the wheel. Don’t smile. Don’t smile. Don’t smile. Keep your hands
on the wheel. There is a right answer to their questions: yes, yes, yes, yes,
yes, yes, yes, you have the power, you have the power, you have the power, you
have—Keep your hands on the wheel. Drive off before they arrest you
for sitting too long at a green light. Avoid looking in your rearview mirror.
They will not drive off before you. They will haunt you in the daylight.
In their smoke-black 4-door (illegally) tinted windows, they mean to haunt.

Metta Sáma is author of Swing at your own risk, forthcoming from Kelsey St. Press in 2019,The Year We Turned Dragon (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs, 2016), and After “Sleeping to Dream”/After After (Nous-zot Press, 2014).

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