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Poems for the people subject to DWI photos in Nassau

Poems by Kimberly Wilder:


Whenever we see a face like that,
my husband and I would say to each other,
“That person looks like they had a hard life.”

Guess that is a sort of blessing of sympathy.
A reminder that the two of us have our casual smiles,
and healthy complexion due to luck and
and the constant support and nurturing of our pretty normal,
suburban families and their upbringing.
(Even, now, they hold birthday parties for me in my mother’s backyard.
And, if I wanted a ride for any reason,
one of my brothers would come get me.)

I would guess from your brittle hair and
out of place wrinkles, that you smoke a lot.

Your eyes droop just a little bit differently from each other.

You look so weary. You are trying to smile in the way
someone smiles as a favor to people, to say, “Don’t pity me.”

When I look into your eyes, I want to hear your story.

Not the story someone tried to tell by catching you,
forcing you to take a picture, and dragging you here
to a line-up of people with that label drunk drivers.
I want to hear the story of how you found yourself
drunk and behind the wheel.

Did someone bring you somewhere and not bring you back?
Do you have a family who would not take your call?
You should have called a cab.
Or, did you know that you could not come up with the fare?

Now that I have seen your portrait,
I want to know the story that goes with it.
I want there to be a way to help.

To Another Woman I Have Not Met

Your eyes are big and wide, with shades of gray and green.

Because I am looking at you above this label of who did wrong,
I notice things like the tired lines
and hint of something mischievous (or is it embarrassed?)
in the way you hold your lips.

Your hair is blond, and I am guessing,
it is part of a lifestyle
where people drink and have fun and try to look pretty
with paint-by-numbers role models.
I usually see that hair as different from me and
my much more serious life.
But, in this case, I think it makes you look more angelic and alive
than I think they wanted the picture of a potential criminal to look.

I have to apologize for watching you in this way.
You keep popping up on the internet news,
and I finally gave in to their goal of making me look.
So, here I am, participating in this public spectacle,
like the gallows in the square of some Puritanical village.

Though, I hope that in writing a poem for you,
I have changed the ritual a bit.

I think we both deserved better.

I wish you on to happier times.
Far from the bottle, far from the things that made you tired.
And, yes, far from the seedy politicians, and greedy media,
that plopped you here before me in
such an awkward manner.


Guess it could have been expected, that when the newspaper
made a line-up of photos,
I could relate more to the people who are like me.
Kind of how like 5th graders like to read stories where
5th graders are the heroes.

All the women I felt sorry for.
And, I was sure that it was some man who left them in the lurch.

I wanted to pick your photo to study,
because I thought it would be a challenge for me-
a white woman and teacher-to really look into your eyes,
and seek out some part that is like me, try to understand.

Because of history,
and racial profiling,
and other horrible background static,
I think there have been a lot of times
when I have seen a black man
in a newspaper, in a photo like this.

But, even with this one exercise,
I am seeing what is unique about you.

In your photo, your eyes look hazy and stoned out.
Though, as a teacher, I have also seen people with that expression
who were confused, or burdened.

Even though you were captured by police in the middle of the night
I can see that you are a neat person.
Your hair is cut just right,
some style from a middle class magazine, I would say.
And, you have an interesting shaped mustache
that clearly, you had to work on.
You are wearing layers, like the Girl Scouts always say to do.
So, someone told you how to take care of yourself.

In the photo I am seeing, which is, literally, a mug shot
(though I am trying not to think of it that way),
I can only see a little bit of your shirt,
but I think it has a wild piece of hand-done art on it.

Here I am looking at you
snatched from the street in the middle of the night,
and not realizing at first that you could be an artist,
a clothing designer, a teacher, like me,
who has children who make shirts for them.

So, I am sorry that even with my attempt to not prejudged you,
I first jumped to many conclusions. I truly wanted to help.

I will think of this poem as putting in a good word for the judge.
I hope that if judges look at the shallow news media
which found it entertaining to publish your photo,
that maybe they also read poetry.

There is another post on this site that lists places for people to turn with help if they have probems with drugs or alcohol here. It includes a link to the Community Resource Database, where you can search for help. And, other links and phone numbers. With love and support, KW

2 Responses

  1. […] Poems about the DWI photos by Kimberly Wilder here. […]

  2. […] about photos of people accused of drunk driving: here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Wilderside Politics Jan 2008You Drink, You Drive, […]

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