by Tori Thompson

Metal cuffs met shaking hands just thirty years ago,
twenty years ago, ten.
But now they are met with another pair of hands
Warm, radiating compassion and soft with care, they
are cradling a victim, a patient, not
a criminal. No,
we don’t call them criminals anymore.
These shaking hands have faded
from darkest brown to palest white.
Ditching their color makes us ditch the prejudice. It seems
we can hold them now without fear of being defiled,
dirty, diseased.
Nixon and Reagan and Clinton, they
told us to stay away from the crackheads.
You laugh but it’s true!
They used to be unsafe,
could not be saved, they
had to be punished.
Swat those hands away lest you become addicted too! But
things are different now.
What is public safety to public health?
Squeeze those hands, white
middle-America needs us
in ways those thugs didn’t before.

Oh, you know why.

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