Loretta Collins Klobah
Blue marlin jetting out of the sea,
a car heaves and jumps over the meridian,
convulsively coasting, a skiff beached
at the world’s end of this gas station.
Motorcycle cop in pursuit
dismounts with baton in hand
like a white-hot father
ready to box a child down.
If he could harpoon the driver
and haul him out through the window,
he would. He beats the car door.
He wants the cabrón out of his car
right fuckin now.
An SUV swerves near the cop,
a woman shouting Policia, abusador!
but the cop hears only the sea-roar in his head.
He drags the driver ashore,
and I see it is a fisherman,
still in his rubber boots,
a hanging, wet t-shirt flecked with fish scales.
His car, not set in “park”,
rolls downhill on its own, against traffic.
When the cop runs to catch it,
the fisherman walks randomly away,
as if on the surface of a light sea,
as if he has forgotten how to walk
on land that does not move under him.
When the policeman runs back to take the man down,
he clubs the fisherman hard in the kidneys on both sides.
With fast chop-strokes, he beats at the shoulders.
My daughter, standing by my side, asks Do you see that?
I nod. We see it.
No one at the gas station moves.
Men and women stand, serious and silent,
our lives fallen away from us.
No one tops off his tank and heads off.
We stay like watchmen.
The fisherman, on his feet still, flails as he is beaten.
Rock steady, mate.
I want to say that he strains
and leaps against the line
like a dorado, a dolphin fish,
golden and purple, leaping
from the sea, plunging and cutting
until he is tired, gaffed, and brought to the stern,
clubbed on the head until he quivers and is still.
But he is not a metaphor. He is just a fisherman
brought to the ground now
by another man, an off-duty cop in plain clothes,
who happens to be gassing-up his car here,
and who, without anger, and without addressing
the motorcycle cop, follows prescribed routine,
putting the pescador face down on the asphalt
with a knee in the back. He sits, straddling our fish,
and spreads out his arms flat to the sides.
When the arms weakly flap,
Plainclothes puts them firmly
and patiently down again three times
until they learn to be quiet.
The man’s bleeding, moving jaw
still bites against the hook.
Like the flaming horses of Athena’s chariot,
the SUV returns, the woman warrior,
100% Boricua and reckless
and shouting at the badjohn cop,
demanding name and badge number.
When she drives off, the two cops
gut the man’s pants pockets,
dropping derelict items on the pavement.
When the syringe is retrieved,
the fisherman is handcuffed
and left face down on the street
until a police car comes.
If I stay with this metaphor,
you will see mahi mahi
well-cooked in una salsa sabrosa,
con ajillo, mantequilla, alcaparra,
served with amarillos, yellow fried plantains,
in a seaside Cataño restaurant,
not the man who was beaten at my feet.
I saw in that moment my students,
for a year now tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed,
beaten, kicked, groped on the breasts,
dragged and carried high in the air
by arms and feet like lechón
on a barbecue spit, and arrested
by an army-size troop of la fuerza de choque.
Sometimes I was there, close by
in the protesting crowd, helicopter overhead.
Sometimes I added mine to the thousands of hits
as I watched shaky cell-phone videos uploaded to websites.
Home now, I search my memory
for the video of Miguel Cáceres Cruz,
kicked and shot in the back of the head,
downed in the streets in front of El Playerito
in el barrio Punta Santiago, Humacao,
by police four years ago, sin compasión,
for the simple crime of safely directing traffic
at a quinceañera celebration.
I will tell you
that the people of this unfortunate isle
are dazed by police brutality.
How many times will we upload atrocities to You Tube?
How many times, in this tierra de los poetas,
will we trace the arc of the baton swing
in our reggaetón songs
before we all climb into our armoured and fiery SUVs,
a sea of la gente flooding past roadblocks
at La Fortaleza, banging on the windows,
chanting We want el Señor Gobernador
out of his mansion fortress
to face us