On Reaching Into My Pocket For What Keeps Me Alive

Photograph by Jose Padua
Forty years ago during Easter Sunday dinner
when our family friend advises us during
a discussion of the state of things, “Never
trust the police,” I look at his white skin,
his short brown hair, and his clean, tucked-in
shirt and remind myself that this isn’t some
former hippie or some other wild pot-smoking
radical type leftover from the 60s but an attorney
who as long as we’ve know him has had
a respectable job and who now lives out
in the distant suburbs far from my city
neighborhood with his tall, broad-shouldered
wife and their young son. I was old enough then
to know that I wanted to become a writer
and when he heard this he said that the most
important thing for me was to have experience
and he mentioned a few other things but never
once did he mention school. And as I grew up
I came to understand that there are a lot
of people who have an easier time than me
speaking to cops and that there are a lot of people
who have a much harder time, and that even
though there are times when the cops can be
of help, that I need to make sure I really need
them before I call them because speaking
a common language doesn’t mean there
will be always communication between us
which is why I make sure they can always
see my hands when I’m getting a traffic ticket
or walking by them on their beat. And I
understand that by saying, “Don’t shoot, I’m
just reaching into my pocket for a book of
poems,” I could either be explaining what helps me
stay alive or else speaking my last words.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua. First published at Vox Populi.

2 responses to “On Reaching Into My Pocket For What Keeps Me Alive

  1. That is awesome! So much expressed in such precise and beautiful language.

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