Clarion Masthead

Occasional Poems

Shot Dead, a villanelle

Fatal Encounter in Ferguson Took Less Than 90 Seconds/
police radio communications and video … offer new details from the day/
an unarmed black teenager was shot dead by a white … officer in August.

Did Officer Wilson view Mr. Brown as a suspect in a theft
that had just occurred at a store?
Fatal Encounter in Ferguson Took Less Than 90 Seconds

Were Mr. Brown’s hands raised in the air in a motion of surrender
when he was shot, as some witnesses have said?
an unarmed black teenager was shot dead by a white … officer in August.

Was Officer Wilson punched and scratched in a struggle
with Mr. Brown, as he has told the authorities?
Fatal Encounter in Ferguson Took Less Than 90 Seconds

Mr. Brown [pushed] a store clerk and [took] cigarillos /
“Put me on Canfield with two,” Officer Wilson told a dispatcher at 12:02 pm/
Ferguson Took
an unarmed black teenager … in August.


“Fatal Encounter in Ferguson Took Less Than 90 Seconds, Police Communications Reveal” by Monica Davey, NYT, Nov. 15, 2014


Chokehold, a villanelle

several times before he went motionless/
—the heavyset 43-year-old father of six—/
Garner could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe”

He was a nuisance to shop owners who complained
about him selling untaxed cigarettes on the street./
several times before he went motionless.

[a] veteran officer appeared to wrap his arm around
Garner’s neck and take him down to the ground./
Garner could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe”

If he could repeatedly say, “I can’t breathe,”
it means he can breathe [said Congressman King]/
several times before he went motionless.

The medical examiner later found
that a chokehold resulted in Garner’s death/
Garner [had been] heard saying, “I can’t breathe”

The video showed Garner telling officers
to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed./
before he went motionless/
Garner could be heard


“Police: Chokehold Victim Eric Garner Complicit in Own Death” by Tom Hays and Colleen Long, Associated Press, Dec. 5, 2014.


Semi-Automatic, ghazal-inspired

Shot in the Park After Waving a Toy/
1. Don’t carry a toy/

do exactly what the police ask you to do, even
(like showing them that your gun is a toy)/

There are no statistics on the number
of people shot while holding toy/

What will you tell your sons/
as much as we might want to say that [a] toy

gun was the beginning and the end of this story, it isn’t/
Tamir Rice, Shot in the Park After Waving a Toy/


“How Will You Talk With Your Sons About Tamir Rice, Shot in the Park After Waving a Toy Gun?” by KJ Dell’Antonia, NYT, Motherlode parenting blog, Nov. 24, 2014


Sharing — A Father’s Day Gift

Tending my own disquiet—sniffing the milk
and smacking fruit flies off the grapefruit—
I sit at the counter and click onto The Daily Poem,

catching on Sandburg’s line
a hairpin in her teeth
—Mother twisting her hair into a nest
as my sister does now. As my two daughters

each, hands above head, twist strands. One
takes a clip from her teeth to trap the coil,
stray shocks like pretty black antennae;

the other takes a pencil to pierce a thickness
we all possess in varying shades. Here
is Mother, gone twenty years. Here in their twenties,

my girls realize the luminous mundane :
I was three, quietly watching my quiet mother
shake out her pin-curls in the window’s sun.

From a blinking cursor I look up and through the blinds
to the hedge where nothing stirs in the stark bright or shadow
but the painful cicada:
sharing these women is my gift to Father.

______________________________

Kimiko Hahn’s last two collections, Toxic Flora and Brain Fever (WW Norton), were inspired by science. Three of these occasional poems use lines from newspaper articles, as noted. The fourth, though very different, is also “occasional” in that it was written for the occasion of Father’s Day. Hahn is a distinguished professor in the Queens College MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation.