The Policeman’s Daughter

~ after Paula Rego’s painting with the same title (1987)

Stretched in the doorway half in and half out
of shadow, the cat knows something evil can take

the shapeshifting color of indigo, the color
of dusk falling on rusted metal roofs, glinting

on filthy streets now newly washed by rain.
The girl knows, too; though she keeps her eyes

lowered, as she concentrates on her task. By now
she has read in the papers about the 17 year old boy

dragged through the alley and past the basketball
court; of witnesses who heard him plead for his life,

heard the voices of policemen goading him to take one
of their guns, then run. One after the other, the shuttered

houses doused their lamps: this too, become modus operandi.
Then a sharp volley of shots from the vicinity of the bridge.

What do the red clay-like stains on her father’s boot
have to do with the color of these nights? If she looked

in the mirror as she worked, she might think a man
was struggling to climb, one leg at a time, out of a hole

where her shoulder socket should be. She takes a wet rag
and scrubs, observes how she can barely feel the circular

motions made by her hand. The taut, stretched skin
from some dead animal sheathes the arm that she puts

inside the shaft. This must almost be how it feels: to be
holstered, to be fixed, to be held, to be strapped.

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