At 7:00 P.M. on New Year's Eve a young woman named Shannon Harps was stabbed to death in front of her apartment building. It was just a few blocks from where I get off the bus after work, and not far away from where I live.
The police released a sketch of someone who was alternately described as a "suspect" or a "person of interest." They have received about a hundred tips. They have not arrested anyone. They have not detained anyone.
I've heard women say that they're afraid now to walk in the dark, even early in the evening. I realize that I'm feeling that way, too.
The police have not provided much information about the progress, and no one knows why this tragedy, this violence occurred. Questions. No answers.
I was thinking about this as I was walking home tonight, and I was feeling angry that no one seemed to know anything, and then I wondered what it would be like to be a police department spokesperson, and to have to stand in front of a community and say, over and over again if necessary, that you had no new information at this time. I thought about what that person might say if he or she could say anything. I did what I do. I wrote this poem.
I hope it's okay.
What the Policeman Would Say
We wanted to tell you we understood,
that our own natures had changed,
the scarves of safety unraveling.
We wanted to say that we understood
the new taste of fear in your mouths,
the thousand shuttered eyes
hiding behind the bushes,
waiting fingers wrapped around the knife's grip.
We wanted to tell you we
heard her screams
when we walked after dark,
imagined the blood beneath her
a pillow, a sad bed. We, too,
now jumped at the rustle
only to find an old piece of paper,
an abandoned plastic bag
shuttled by the wind
and we started to breathe again,
waited for our hearts to gentle.
We wanted to tell you that we knew
it could have been our sisters,
our daughters. We, like you, have been trying
not to call them at three in the morning,
asking into the darkness
Are you there? Are you okay?
and beg them to stay inside
at all costs. We understood the costs.
We wanted to tell you what we knew.
We wanted to hand you results
and justice. Even vengeance.
But we had to stick to less than facts,
less than we knew, and that was so little.
UPDATE: Apparently, the police have someone in custody, although details are still few.