Monday, January 29, 2007

'Broken and unbroken people'

On Saturday I posted about the tragedy the Bedggood family has just experienced; yesterday I plugged Richard Taylor's forthcoming book of poems. I thought it'd be appropriate, then, to post this poem by Richard about a tragedy in his family. Richard's son Victor lost an eye after a confronation with the police in Ponsonby; charges laid against Victor after the incident were later thrown out of court by a judge who apologised to the Taylor family.

'The Policeman Still Has Two' is part of Richard's ongoing Eyelight blog project, which mixes visual art with verse and prose, and it's also featured in the forthcoming (if the printers at Massey ever get their act together) 'War' issue of brief (check out a sneak preview here). I admire the way that Richard's poem simplifies its vocabulary and sentence construction to communicate the child-like disorientation and incomprehension we often feel in the aftermath of a tragic event.

The Policeman Still Has Two

In the place of Justice, at the Court.
I sit among dark, strange, beings.
Policemen, unmenacing, brush past.
Lean lawyers, men in suits, chat
With savages. Street girls smoke
And laugh. A fat, sad man is fined.
A transvestite titters. Black jackets suits ties.
Broken and unbroken people.

The Judge hardly glances
At a boy, nervily shifting in the dock;
He has only one eye. What does it see?

A dark woman, as elegant
As a queen, sobs from an interview room:
I hear: “Both of you have, the...guilt/
The grief...” Or was it "burden"? A lady in
uniform walks past. I wait.

My son has one eye.

Lawyers from behind their ties, explain.

My son has one eye. .

The dark night has gone.

The men who
have been destroyed by those they destroy
Are kept for wicked Ogres
In their sneering woo wah wooh wah
Waspy cars. They club the broken hits
Of our land to bloody lumps,
In their daily night bashings. Like
weeders in a jungle, they are ten feet tall
And they are green
And they spit death blue
And their great, bulging, blindingly
Yellow eyes burn merciless and blind.

My boy has one eye. One!
The other one was burst…

He had run outside and cried
That a big in him had died.
The eye, infinitely aware, was all life long
In its marvellous/ Billion step creation/ Billion step making.

After vast time unfolding
It shone in a baby’s face: it grew to manhood.
A policeman, a dutiful policemen, burst it with a baton.
The eye was as beautiful as every eye. My boy, my green
And gentle boy — has only one eye.

Two two two — one two one two one two — blue green blue green
Blue blue blue... Cops, courts, people, batons, judges.

Batons - love, hate - eyes eyes eyes. Victor cried for help -
They smashed away his eye. Why?

All I know is a ten foot two-eyed Ogre burst his eye.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maps Maps Maps! You are incorrigble! Hmmmm....

This was poem I wrote quite a long time ago - I actually read it out at the Shakespear pub (or it may have been The Albion) live poetry night - many people knew myself and my ex wife, and I recieved an ovation for this poem, it was longer and actually quite cluttered.

A point though - the judge didn't apologise - they don't do that per se - it is more subtle. What happened was that my son had a knife (it was a "cry for help incident")- it wasn't a really very dangerous knife as knives go and he was pretty drunk and distraught (suicidal because derpessed with the way things were going for him) and as far as I can make out he was seen "mencacing" one person - the problem was as the police saw it was that he didn't drop the knife - now they thus laid a charge of assault although the assault was technical - that is threatening a witness with a knife - and in the Court case a policeman involved referred to "This tragic incident". The judge asked the jury to consider very carefully - and he went on for some time about this - that in a case of assault (and other serious crimes) it had to be proved that the person charged was "capable of forming an intent" to commit (any crime). As he explained in some detail there is a point where a drunk person for example may in fact be deemed innocent if thus incapable of forming an intent. It is or was thus theoretically possible in law to commit a serious crime and be acquited - if under the influence of drugs or alcohol (and there are other reasons apart from these factors). Now the jury deliberated and asked some questions but their verdict was guilty as charged. The prosecuting lawyer however approached us (privately) and apologised. It was obvious to everyone that the charge of assault was to cover the police from a counter charge of assault. As it was Victor was so traumatised I couldn't get enough information or constancy from him to take an action against the police. ACC awarded him $15,000 which they gave in lump sum - now that was disastrous as he got into a flat and quickly spent it all in couple little more than a month - and a downward spiral of his behaviour and life began. This incident and some others in his life lead to a spiral downwards from which I hope he is now finally recovering. I could not completely "blame the police" (only -or/and if at all) - I recieved differing opinions about the incident - for example - one lawyer I approached said that in the US he may well have been shot and so on. (Indeed he could have been shot here - in some cases it could be the right thing to do if someone is actually chopping people with a knife - although this wasnt quite the case here). A doctor said he would have wanted more than 1 million dollars compensation. Also I was not at the scene of the arrest and I am pretty certain it was accidental - I dont think the cop meant to take out my son's eye. But the incident was - I feel - badly handled. It reminds me of the killing of that young man in (Waitara?) who was smashing shop windows - that incident was mishandled - the police needed to employ a skilled negotiator and so on. A net could haven been used. Against that these things are not always easy - someone with a knife or other weapon - especially at dusk has to be considered a serious threat - a potential threat. So the case is problematic.

I was quite devastated and angry at the time - but I didn't want to draw too much attention to it as many people suffer terrible tragedies every day and the incident was difficult to ascertain in its case and effect - even the details of it were unclear as to actually what happened. And I didn't want it to be a "poor old us" versus the "bad cops" and cliches about justice or injustice etc...

Regardless of the rights and wrongs it was tragedy for my son, my own mother, my sisters and my brother, my wife, my daughters; and others who knew my son and my family.

11:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I passed over the entry on Saturday- I just read it - it is very good (very moving) - this quote is so true :

"...rather than rejected and ridiculed. Instead of blaming the mentally ill for their plight, we recognise that they are in an important sense the victims of a society that is itself profoundly sick. Instead of marginalising them we treat them as comrades who must play a full part in decision-making and organising. It is hardly surprising that mentally ill people prefer our company to that of the right.

Dave and Janet's third son Bruno was one of those people tormented by the cruelties of the world he was forced to live in. I never met Bruno, who killed himself last Wednesday..."

Completely. This especially:

"...they [the mentally ill] are in an important sense the victims of a society that is itself profoundly sick...".

My deepest sympathy to the Bedggood family for their great loss.

12:07 am  
Blogger maps said...

Thanks for clarifying that Richard. I hear from my spies (eg Muzzlehatch) that you and Victor have become demon exercisers: I'll have to come round and help you climb Mt Wellington (Maungarei?) some time...

1:39 am  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

The commments were by me, Richard, they wern't meant to be "anyonmous".

8:29 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

Maps - we go up Maugarei most days - but we also walked around Ranigitoto a few weeks back - and my daughter is helping us in life-changing processs - I might expatiate on that on my Blog (I have finished the first 'cycle' of Eyleight and thus am "between" things.)

I don't want to lecture - but weight control and physical fitness are of enormous importance - but while for some people having alcohol and biscuits in the house etc is no probelm - it is all on the principleof what is important to the individual - not based on "guilt".

BTW we are not on a diet -although we choose or limit what we eat there is no diet per se - eg if we feel like chocolate (or any food) we can eat it - but mostly we dont as it happens.

Nor is it to do with cosmetics although physical appearance is sigificant - the main thing is the feeling of well being and health etc. So also how one is in oneself - self esteem and so on.

My daughter will be doing an MA and then PhD in psychology and her specialty is health and fitness psychology (and hence human well-being).

Another point - even if we can change the "big things" - class oppression etc, war etc (important issues and problems) - we stil have the struggle of the human at the individual level - culture, philosophy, human interractions and so on, health and many other difficulties.

But we shouldn't be looking to eliminate problems we should be looking to ways of solving them or accepting that we cant solve all; there will always be some problems or difficulties. The challenges are complex and indeed we need challenges. It (life) is a struggle.

Drink for example I used to overcome nerves at social gatherings and also esp. poetry readings - but most of my life up to 1988 or so I rarely drank. And I used to run very day - from about 1974 - 1988 I was very fit.

Victor and I have both lost quite few kilograms already in about 6 weeks.

8:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nice Blog .I think HR understands the importance of other people tracking time--IT, Lawyers, non-exempt employees, but struggles with the idea of labor time tracker .

7:03 pm  

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