405: We Are Not Responsible

405: We Are Not Responsible

405: We Are Not Responsible

This week, we’ve chosen to highlight episodes that take up questions of social justice. The outrage and heartbreak brought on by the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other Black citizens remind us that courageous dialogue about racial prejudice is critical to the survival of our culture. And we believe that poetry is a perfect vehicle for just such dialogue.

Read an automated transcript

We Are Not Responsible
by Harryette Mullen

We are not responsible for your lost or stolen relatives. 
We cannot guarantee your safety if you disobey our instructions.
We do not endorse the causes or claims of people begging for handouts.
We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.

Your ticket does not guarantee that we will honor your reservations.
In order to facilitate our procedures, please limit your carrying on.
Before taking off, please extinguish all smoldering resentments.

If you cannot understand English, you will be moved out of the way.
In the event of a loss, you’d better look out for yourself.
Your insurance was cancelled because we can no longer handle
your frightful claims. Our handlers lost your luggage and we
are unable to find the key to your legal case.

You were detained for interrogation because you fit the profile.
You are not presumed to be innocent if the police
have reason to suspect you are carrying a concealed wallet.
It’s not our fault you were born wearing a gang color.
It is not our obligation to inform you of your rights.

Step aside, please, while our officer inspects your bad attitude.
You have no rights we are bound to respect.
Please remain calm, or we can’t be held responsible
for what happens to you.

"We Are Not Responsible" by Harryette Mullen, from SLEEPING WITH THE DICTIONARY by Harryette Mullen, copyright © 2002 University of California Press. Used by permission of the poet.