On the night on Oct. 14, 2014, the CPD responded to a report of a man carrying a knife walking in the street. When they confronted Laquan, he sliced the tires of a patrol car with a 3-inch knife. In response, Jason Van Dyke—who was on the scene for less than 30 seconds—shot Laquan from 10 feet away as Laquan was walking away. The bullet spun the teen’s body around and knocked him to the ground.
Then Van Dyke fired into Laquan’s body 15 more times. ¹
Analyze: To examine methodically, carefully slice chest from throat to navel, peel away skin, methodically crack the sternum of opinion, snap the cage of belief to clear the smooth sac around strong muscle, find not fact but feeling, gut, instinct, presumption, assumption, prejudice.
Innocence: In Sir Garrow’s court, innocence a promise, presumption that includes the right to confront, to counsel, to a heart unfenced, pumping blood not bullets because lead ripping through chambers is a weight they cannot, we cannot bear. See also: Fair trial, not shot, not lead, not rending, not dead.2
Heal: To repair hearts shredded, stitch them back, knit anew this visceral pile of ground muscle, pericardium, analyze our own hearts beating leadless and smooth. To heal takes time, another kind of weight, this mark of continued existence ticking on in measures the living have come to know; meaningless to the dead, useful to them only for noting their moment of departure in police reports, obituaries, testimony. 3
Testimony: A mother lets loose a scream that begins somewhere near her navel, builds in her chest. She looks, up, leans back and mouth open she is La Llorona, wailing woman, banshee. See also: American sons weighed down by poisoned water, poverty, violence wearing skin they cannot change, walking in streets that deny them space, stopping and falling in these streets—their mother’s shoulders slumped under their dead weight.4
Hear: In a café you set the newspaper to the side, stare at the horizon, skin ruddy in the sunshine. You tilts your head as though listening for something. In the silence you takes a breath, fix your paper, and read the opinions. 5
Silence: This is the moment: the world hangs mid-air. Before she testifies, the mother, her grief an open mouth pulled too wide, noiseless, deafening to those who looklisten.6
Where: In this place, we are here and hear, here and hear, feet planted, ears filling and full running over with sound, resounding, reverberating, eyes wide, hands up.7
Up in arms: to be aroused, incensed. In arms. Armed. At arms. Glaucester’s armure. Gawain’s armure. “The commons here in Kent are up in arms.” Henry VI Part II. Are we problem, process, solution? Are we armed with words, armed with laws, armed with sit-ins, armed with tears at a press conference, armed with language of violence borne of violence to solve violence. Why aren’t we up in arms? We are arms, armed, in arms.8
Ignore: See hear.9
- Michael Harriot, “Cops who covered up Laquan McDonald’s murder back on Chicago Payroll. The Root (June 13, 2017) https://www.theroot.com/cops-who-covered-up-laquan-mcdonalds-murder-back-on-chi-1796059557
- “Chicago officers indicted in Laquan McDonald shooting.” USA News Al Jazeera (June 28, 2017) https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/chicago-officers-indicted-laquan-mcdonald-shooting-170628080052345.html.
- “If any good comes from this tragedy, it should be a historic set of reforms that prevents abuses, promotes transparency and rebuilds the confidence of all Chicagoans that they will be treated fairly.” Rahm Emmanuel, “I own the problem of police brutality, and I’ll fix it.” Chicago Tribune (December 4, 2015) http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-rahm-emanuel-laquan-mcdonald-police-perspec-20151204-story.html. The criminal trial against the police officers involved in the shooting, which occurred on October 20, 2014, is still pending at the writing of this poem, July 10, 2018.
- In a 2016 campaign stop to Chicago, Hillary Clinton discussed gun violence. A local reporter claimed: “Clinton singled out the names of local children who were killed by gun violence, including the late Hadiya Pendleton.” Natasha Korecki, “Clinton highlights gun violence, police brutality in Chicago.” POLITICO (February 17, 2016): https://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/hillary-clinton-gun-violence-police-chicago-219393.
- Just before the close of the Senate session on June 22nd, 2016, House Democrats shouted down Speaker Paul Ryan, yelling “No Bill, No Break” before staging a nearly 26 hour sit-in on the floor of the House. Senate protesters held signs with images of people killed in gun violence and discussed all forms of gun violence in the United States, including discussion of gun violence in Chicago, among other places. Don Lemon. “Democrats shout ‘no bill, no break’ on House floor – CNN Video.” CNN (June 22, 2016): https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2016/06/23/house-democrats-shout-no-bill-no-break-lemon-raju-ctn.cnn
- Which is called for: Silence out of respect for families’ mourning, or shouting? While speaking on gun violence in January of 2016, Barack Obama said “Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad,” he said. “And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.” “Ward Room: Obama on gun violence: ‘It happens on the streets of Chicago every day” NBC Chicago 5 (January 5, 2016): https://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Obama-on-Gun-Violence-It-Happens-on-the-Streets-of-Chicago-Every-Day-364264661.html.
- ”We are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise. We affirm our humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation,” Mission statement, Black Lives Matter. In his vlog, John Green describes a story of British soldiers singing the phrase “We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here” (To the tune of Auld Lang Syne), marking the feelings of loss and purpose and collective support the soldiers felt during what must have been difficult and hopeless times. John Green, “Because We’re Here.” Vlogbrothers, Youtube (November 03, 2017): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNzyc3h2GkI.
- Gary Martin, “‘Up in arms’ – the meaning and origin of this phrase.” Phrasefinder: https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/up-in-arms.html.
- “Besides,/They’ll see how beautiful I am/And be ashamed—” Langston Hughes, “I, too, am America,” Poets.org, (June 09, 2017): https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/i-too.
About the Author
Monica Fuglei, a Nebraska-native in awe of the mountains, teaches composition and creative writing at Arapahoe Community College in Denver, Colorado. Author of two chapbooks, Parts and Gathering, her work has been recently published in The Untidy Season: an Anthology of Nebraska women poets.