(offered in solidarity with Minneapolis protesters in the wake of the murder by police of George Floyd, and in response to this striking image from Andy Mannix on Twitter)
“Within the crowd at least one person was wearing goggles and carrying a stick, others carried milk – a tactic known to be used to decontaminate pepper spray, and medics were on hand.”
–Burlington, VT Police Department press release, offered to characterize a nonviolent crowd of protesters as violent in order to justify the police department’s violent response
“Hope is never silent.” —Harvey Milk
Others carried signs, a tactic known to enable free speech, written messages, dangerously sharp puns and slogans.
Others carried pocketbooks, a tactic known to keep sunglasses and spare change from spilling its deadly shrapnel out onto the pavement.
Others carried fists full of air.
Others carried pocket copies of the Constitution, a tactic known to be used for creating the U.S. government and enshrining fundamental rights, the sharp corners of which have been known to be used for putting out an eye.
Others carried cell phones, a tactic known to enable talking to other people on other cell phones.
Others carried pockets, a tactic known to enable convenient access to car keys – car keys, a tactic known to enable the driving of cars, the entering of homes and offices.
Others carried ideas, in invisible baskets, a tactic known to incite more ideas.
Others carried paper, a tactic known to enable origami, ass-wiping, face-fanning, petition-drafting, letter-writing, voting, littering.
Others carried tampons, a tactic known to enable convenient and tidy menstruation.
Others carried canvas shopping bags, a tactic known to stop tanks.
Others carried babies, a tactic known to be used to board airplanes early.
Others carried oranges, a tactic known to provide a handy and nutritious snack.
Others carried flags, a tactic known to incite patriotic protest and inspire impossible-to-sing anthems.
Others carried newspapers, a tactic known to incite reading and thinking.
Others carried shirts, a tactic known to be used to modestly cover nipples, known to be used to staunch the bleeding of broken skulls.
Others carried eyes, a tactic known to enable seeing, believing.
Others carried throats, a tactic known to enable swallowing, breathing, drinking milk.
Others carried teeth, a tactic known to enable biting.
Others carried ears, a tactic known to enable hearing the hiss of the gas canister and its clink on the sidewalk.
Others carried fingers, a tactic known to be used for pointing.
Others carried hands, a tactic known to be used for covering the head, the guts, the groin, against the rain of blows.
Others carried hearts, pumping and fluttering, a tactic known to push the blood into use and maintain life.
Others carried legs, a tactic known to be used for attempting to get out of the way of the falling baton.
Others carried Otherness – some easily, some bent beneath it – they could not put it down when ordered to do so.
Others carried away injured bodies, a tactic known to keep bodies from being further injured.
Others carried video cameras – pepper-spray-proof eyes plugged into long memory.
Others carried voices, a tactic known to enable talking, chanting, shouting, singing, testifying.
Others carried question marks, a tactic known to be used to ask questions.
Others breathed, a tactic known to be used to manufacture poisonous carbon dioxide.
Others carried bottles of water, which may not be taken through the TSA checkpoint – water, a tactic known to be used to slake thirst, to wet the voice for one more inconvenient accusation, one more adamant song.
Others carried hope, fiercely and tenderly guarding its necessary ember.
Others carried milk.
Others carried milk – tactical milk defensive milk mother’s milk of human kindness—
And the milk was spilled, all the milk was spilled upon all the scalded eyes, and oh how we cried over it.
And even those milky, non-tactical tears were gathered up. We pressed them into shards, into service. We carried them.
(first published in If You Can Hear This: Poems in Protest of an American Inauguration, Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017)