Command and Comply
in memoriam: Vanessa Marquez
The officers are unharmed, uncharged, reputations unmarred.
She had a BB gun, claimed to be having a seizure,
said, kill me, kill me. But who, in the throes of debilitating
pain, hasn’t entertained, fleetingly, that thought?
Actress Vanessa Marquez shot multiple times in her home
in lawful self-defense, dead.
Adam Trammell, schizophrenic, called by the wrong name,
splashed water at the officers, testing reality
or hallucination, tasered in his bathtub, sedated, dead.
Ethan Saylor, Down syndrome, his caregiver gone to fetch the car,
settled back in for a second viewing of Zero Dark Thirty, unpaid,
told the officers he was a CIA agent, escorted out of the theater,
restrained, asphyxiated, dead.
Magdiel Sanchez, carried a lead pipe to ward off dogs,
shot dead, though neighbors yelled Magdiel was deaf,
could not comply to Drop It!
136 disabled people killed by police in 2018.
Where is the street protest? The rage?
I see myself as/I am competent, cognizant, verbal.
But I too, have not been seen, listened to, heard.
When waiters and clerks ask colleagues, what does he want?
When the airport security officer during wheelchair pat down,
snarls, is there a reason you can’t take your belt and shoes off?
When the bus driver ignores, Sir, this isn’t my stop.
Times my brain can’t compel my palsied body to comply.
Vanessa Marquez is dead for failure to comply to commands.
Of all the words we have for disabled: abnormal, atypical, invalid,
incapable, incompetent, slow, delayed, deformed, diminished…
the one I fear most: vulnerable.
Johnson Cheu is a June Jordan’s Poetry for the People alum. From there, his poetry’s appeared widely in anthologies such as Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out. Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images, and journals from North American Review to most recently Crab Orchard Review, Foliate Oak, and Rattle. Other stuff out in the world include edited film books, and scholarly articles in Popular Culture Studies and Disability Studies.