Murder, children and other crimes

The reason that it is important—of the utmost importance—for white people, here, to see the Negroes as people like themselves is that white people will not, otherwise, be able to see themselves as they are. — James Baldwin, “East River, Downtown: Postscript to a Letter from Harlem,” 1961

Sacramento police officers shot and killed 22-year-old Stephon Clark, a father of two who was unarmed, in the backyard of his grandparents’ home on Sunday night. — Breaking News from NPR, March 22, 2018


I am old enough to have been alive when “two dozen armed Negroes” interrupted a state

Assembly debate in Sacramento, California, guns loaded, and when Panthers would arrive

With loaded guns to keep alive black people that white people had decided to arrest.


You can see how we’ve progressed—from hanging young men in trees, breaking their necks,

Holding public spectacles our children could attend and leave with souvenirs of a penis

Nailed to a log with fire distressed; the man having been given a knife to castrate himself.


Our wealth allows us to pay some men to gun down others in grandparents’ backyards,

Or as they sit waiting in their cars. Or we club and choke them to death on the sidewalk,

And we like to watch people talk about this on TV, and we circulate petitions on Facebook.


Look at all the criminals we lock up on golf courses, in offices, helicopters and private jets.

“They get what they get,” they tried to teach my son in preschool. “And you don’t get upset.”


— Poem and drawing by William Eaton

Drawing is, in fact, a juxtaposition of two movie-promo images, one of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and the other of Susan Sarandon from Thelma and Louise.

∩ “Two dozen Negroes” quotation is From the pages of The Bee, 1967: Armed Black Panthers invade Capitol. One might also see any number of heart-rending works on lynching in the South, to include two New York Review of Books articles: C. Vann Woodward, “Dangerous Liaisons,” February 19, 1998 and David Levering Lewis, “An American Pastime,” November 21, 2001.

The teaching oft-repeated at my son’s preschool was, in fact, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”


Now available from Amazon: Art, Sex, Politics

Art, Sex, Politics cover from AmazonIn a new, provocative collection of essays, William Eaton, the author of Surviving the Twenty-First Century, shares the pleasures of questions, tastes, reading and more visual arts. “That we are animals, that is as sure as ever. How savagely we behave! And how affectionately rub up against one another. How, desperately, make love?”
Five-star review: “ . . . remarkable collection of essays. . . . insights which carry the reader into a world of mindfulness. One of the pleasures of reading a book by Mr. Eaton is to witness the author peeling away the layers of his stories. His essay concerning “savoring,” for example, first touches on food habits, yet is in fact a call to live with intention; to savor life as one would savor a meal. . . . lovely prose . . . delightful book.”


Kind words about Surviving: “Entertaining, yet packs a quiet intellectual wallop. . . . so thought-provoking and poetic I didn’t want it to end . . . beautiful and wise and moving . . . engaged, non-doctrinaire, well-read, independent-minded. . . . William Eaton finds arresting themes in unusual places. . . . The writing is masterful and wonderfully absorbing.”

Categories: No Solution, Poems (including Limericks), The Real World, Zed

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2 replies

  1. All that you say is true, and makes me ashamed and sickened by the bloody history of this country.

    • Can we say, too, Carol, that our country offers so much to write poetry (however angrily) about, and thus one must be impressed (and ask questions about?) all the poems about how “I” lost my virginity or lied about it, or about a racoon in the backyard, etc.

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