Poem

Maxine Beneba Clarke
Surveillance

the blood-truth is:

 

it’s much less about the camera

           and much more to do with the body

that it’s worn on

 

the body with the baton

hanging from its belt, the body

in blue, the body on the cop beat

clenching fists around a point-blank

pepper-spray can, the body

who holds the rein, that rears the riot

horse, the body trained

to wield

                         the gun

 

 

it is conviction-clear now

 

       what most of us knew

two years ago

 

when the surveillance devices act

                 was amended

 

 

back then, victoria police

said bodycams

                    would be the third eye

 

that there was nothing to worry about:

and importantly,

         this would ensure that officers

do the right thing

 

but we all knew

 

we knew    

that it was not the people

who needed watching

 

 

that those cameras only shoot

from the same angle

                     as the coppers do:

 

no matter who does what, no matter

      what goes down

 

that device

         can only ever be pointed

 

                      at you

 

 

victoria police,

they brought in bodycams

 

       and they now admit

they have the power

          to edit or delete

 

 

 

trust them

 

 

they will only do it sparingly

 

 

meanwhile bystanders’ smartphones

capture disproportionate force

                      midway through an episode

headlocked hard against the asphalt

concerned for his own welfare

he’d called for help himself

 

meanwhile neighbours say

nah, it never went down

                     like that

the gun was cocked

before anyone

                     even answered

           the door

 

had he really skipped parole,

or was it just supposed to be

                    a routine check-up call

 

where were bodycams then

                   we have heard it all before

 

 

the blood-truth is:

 

it’s much less about the gun

           and much more to do with the body

that it’s trained on

 

 

the body with the placard

raised in its fist, the body

brown, the body colonised

the body of a struggling mind

         the body easy

                     to get away with beating:

clenching eyelids against a point-blank

pepper-spray can, the body underneath

the rearing riot horse, the body well trained

 

 

to fear

 

                                           the blue

Maxine Beneba Clarke
is The Saturday Paper’s poet laureate, and the author of The Hate Race and Foreign Soil. She is a winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry.