Poem of the Week | February 07, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Ottawa police apologize for handling of incident after white woman calls 911 on Black man in a park” by Michael Fraser.

Michael Fraser is published in various national and international journals and anthologies. He is published in Best Canadian Poetry in English 2013 and 2018. He has won numerous awards, including Freefall Magazine’s 2014 and 2015 poetry contests, the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize, and the 2018 Gwendolyn Macewen Poetry Competition. His third poetry collection, The Day-Breakers, is forthcoming from Biblioasis in spring 2022.


Ottawa police apologize for handling of incident after white woman calls 911 on Black man in a park

              The Globe & Mail – July 10, 2020

Summer keeps moving, even when I try
to hold it still. The park takes in bees
and butterflies by the eyeful. Marigolds and
lilies are pure class under this much July,
their colours flashing all I want serenity to be.
In bushes, I hear crickets get a touch of air.
Squirrels double back across the shared footpath,
their tails fluffed in full-flight fury.
All of nature serving its type of symmetry.
There’s so much beauty my camera can’t
frame it all in.
Then everything skids to a stop.
I can’t sidestep the finger pointed at me,
or wish it back to its silence. I tell the
dispatcher what I’m about, tell her how
I shape the concept of me, while my phone
is pressed to preserve each moment
striding into the present. Look how
trees reach for the stratosphere without
thinking they did anything wrong.


Author’s Note

This poem is a simple first-person account of someone being accosted, encountered, and impeded by a “Karen.” I initially read about the incident in The Globe and Mail. Luckily, there was copious video footage online which instantly placed me within the poem and the perspective of the unfortunate gentleman experiencing the confrontation. Naturally, I’ve experienced similar instances myself. I wanted to juxtapose the park’s serenity with Karen’s policing of Black bodies. How terrible is it when we can’t sit down and enjoy a park for a few minutes. A firmly planted tree has more freedom to sprawl and insinuate itself into space than we do. It’s a shame.