I know you're messed up, the cop said,
pushing his face up close to mine,
angry because when I blew, the little needle
of the breathalyzer didn't even move
From the bloodless line of his mouth,
it seemed that I had really disappointed him,
not just by the crime
of creativity in driving,
but by the crime of not
being drunk enough to justify punishment.
Yes, I have been to the moviesI understand
how justice is mainly a reason
for disproportionate revenge
for bodies flung through hotel windows,
exploding helicopters, speargunned
But here in the close-up I did not appreciate
the cold eye of justice staring into my face.
I know you're messed up on something,
he said again,
and how could I disagree?
when each day I am blown about
by wild gusts of jealousy and rage,
unrequited love, and the vacant panic
that comes from feeling powerless
when every day I shoot and stab
dozens of my fellow citizens
for the felony of coexisting.
And then there are the many other days
when I simply stay in hiding,
like a rabbit holding still in the grass,
trying to avoid detection,
trying to quiet its own beating heart.
Tony Hoagland's books include Sweet Ruin, What Narcissism Means to Me, and Hard Rain. He teaches at the University of Houston.