Night Shift in Portland’s County Lock-up

just a slingshot, some
spray bottle of sulfuric acid
you only hope . . . pins for voodoo
cops, guards, turnkeys
mired in sleepless fluorescence
paperwork scowls
the jailers like Gestapo
county deputies like WWF juiced
up crazies, marked by snake
skin heads, each motion we make
the target in their stag-killing
minds, each person of interest
busted up, ramshackle faces
the prick and jab of Taser
talons, the very essence
of these cops and jail jockeys
extra snap crackle pop
of the electrodes
small of back
chest zapped, heart flagged

I listen to stories, public
intoxication, alleyways
near where the Mercedes
and Prius crowds hunker down
on artisan food and craft beer
highballs 15 dollars a throw
as these persons of interest
males of color mostly
sit under rare moon, soon to be
splayed by Portland’s finest
muggy guys with military tattoos
the jutting chin
as they lead old men and
boys into squad cars
endless shuffling in county
lock-up, the surreal
Tony Montana blasting on
the TVs, while we wait for
processing, coke piles and chainsaws
Pacino drooling his machismo
while old guys give young guys
lessons in how this Stumptown works
overviews of what it means to be
black and sixty-two . . . “don’t trust no white
man, no white woman – you can see it in
their lips, son, they hate us . . .  hate
us all . . . born
to  hate the black man”

nod to the other guy, me
big mouth in the pokey
acknowledging the unfiltered
fact, white cops, white penal
persons, black, brown and Asian
victims, lined up along the endless
black pathways in the pukey linoleum
either going up, or down
released for endless money trail
to merciless murdering lawyers, DA’s
or locked up, 3 a.m. bellies churning
bile, bondsmen not around
the endless conveyor
of money-making off the backs
of us all, the poor, the disavowed
rebellious, recalcitrant
locked up for life
one pointless night in County
an eternity.

Paul Kirk Haeder has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. A forthcoming book (Dec. 15, 2016), Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber, looks at 10 years of his writing at Dissident Voice, and before, to bring defiance to the world that is now lobotomizing at a rate never before seen in history. Read his autobiography, weekly chapter installments, at LA Progressive. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.