Dashboard lights strobe,

a siren wails,

and before I remember my right

to a well-lit stopping place,

I am standing in the empty parking lot

of an abandoned business,

targeted by narcotics officers

because I had the temerity to enter–

and soon after depart–

an apartment complex notorious

for its high rate

of drug trafficking.

They claim they did not see

the friend I dropped off

at her home,

although her front door

stood just a few yards

from where they’d taken up their post–

vision tunneled–

and waited for someone

who looked like me

to do what I did.

As one of them ransacks my car,

I stand beside it

under the watchful eye

of the other,


not because I am in possession

of any contraband,

but because I have realized

with a sickening sinking of my stomach

that I have in fact done something wrong:

I’ve been out and about

without my license to drive.

My anxiety increases their suspicion,

and yet their search of my vehicle

and my pockets

yields nothing illicit.

When at last they come to the inevitable conclusion

that I could not possibly be savvy enough

to conceal banned substances

from them,

their contemptuous countenances change

to expressions of concern

for this young white woman

who finds herself alone

and apparently ill-equipped to navigate

the mean streets of their beat–

while I am reminded,

neither for the first time

nor the last,

how different even the similarities are

on opposite sides

of the color line.

from Another's Treasure © 2014