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California Penal Code 484

The Irvine cops picked up Sherod

while he was riding Jimmy’s bike

to school. He’d snuck up into the scrub hills

above our complex to work on the fort

we were building with wood from a deserted

rancher’s shack. By the time he came down

to the bus stop, we were the diesel exhaust

that ferried us to our daydreaming hours.

Jimmy’s bike stood in the communal racks.

We all knew the combination to its lock

and took the Huffy as needed. Sherod’s need—

to be at Rancho Middle before his father

found out he’d never made it—his need

was one too many. Jimmy’s father,

out the door to work, saw his son’s bike

gone again, reported it stolen to the cops.

A morning patrol found the bike

underneath a black boy not in school

and hauling ass down Culver Drive.

I did not understand what adult machinations

led to my parents driving that afternoon, with me,

to the Irvine police station. My father

had emigrated from England in the 70s

and was hipped to the American scene as soon

as he started dating my mother. He got out

of our Chevette, looked back at his black wife,

his too-brown son, and said, Stay put, you two.

If he pulled that white savior bullshit now,

we’d have words. But I didn’t have that term

white savior then. Even if I’d known it,

I don’t think I would have used it that day.

Would have cared to use it. My friend was in jail

and headed to juvie, that scare story—whaled on

by high school monsters twice our size—tormenting

our nights and keeping our days straight and narrow.

I didn’t care what my father said inside the station,

with what English boys’ school curtness he said it,

with what iron-backed code of whiteness. Didn’t care

and was happy when he strode out with Sherod

trailing behind him. Sherod, who did not speak

on the ride back to our apartments, who watched rows

of eucalyptus blur by on University Avenue, who

the next morning we avoided at the bus stop,

who did not try to join us, who stood with his back

toward the bike racks, toward Jimmy’s bike, fastened

there again, with new lock, with double loop of new chain.

from Ghost, like a PlaceFind more by Iain Haley Pollock at the library

Copyright © 2018 Iain Haley Pollock
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Iain Haley Pollock Poems

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