This is a poem by a local poet in response to the Salinas police shooting on May 20th, 2014.
“Morning of May 21st”
2014, 20th of May
The streets of Salinas have exploded with rage
Have blasted open like a cannon ball to the wall
Or like a bullet that burrows into the brain
Too many times has blood muddied the sidewalks
Have badges played like Jackson Pollock on the pavement
Too many times has gunpowder shattered the silence
Has it screamed its course song into every ear
And I can hear you cry, Sad Salinas—Angry Salinas.
The fog must have been thick with mourning that night
As it always has been. As it always has been.
Before the streets became a river of women and men
Who clogged every intersection like a coagulated wound
I cannot say that I remembered a safer Salinas
As a boy living on E. Bolivar Street, when
Television was my resource, and my resource
Taught me to fear color like it was contagious.
I think we all learned to fear color, learned to
Strike out against the darker or the lighter skin,
Learned to become the painful judgers of our age.
We looked to authority clothed in the white cloth
Of flesh at that time, with XIII scratched on school walls
And blues and reds becoming the streets’ division;
Nobody laughed when children died in
Santa Rita Elementary playgrounds and now,
No one is laughing for the blue-crowned gangs of
Badged Authority, pepper-spray, and gun-metal
Whose conquest comes with the
Burning blast of a black barrel’s edge.
You were a thousand staring eyes last night
All lashing tongues and gnashing teeth,
Voices like razor slashes over a captor’s fighting
Hands, pulling triggers like swords from the sheath
We stand with you like giants over a ravine
Like gods carving the images from the flesh of the valley,
Your calloused hands have built this bay
Your farming lands has fed this nation
The reddened earth lent you its clay
And offered you its great foundation;
And now, you stand again in unison,
Against the friend of empire,
Against the red, white, and blue beast who
Flashes its agenda behind you like a banner of war,
We stand forever beside you with fists in the air
We stand as a human race combating the old throats of dictators,
Demanding that patrol not mean fear,
That a blue uniform not breed paranoia,
And they knew damn well that their presence was always disconcerting,
That their feet always smelled bitter,
Like the crushed grains of free speech,
That their fists were always red
With the 5,000 dead by their own hands—
Each sin belongs to the other
And none who stand before the uniform
Is free from the heavy chains of oppression.
So long as you, too, breathe on this earth
You will never be alone.
Poem by Brian Sheffield