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"The Rule"—A Poem in Response to "Central Park Karen" and George Floyd’s Murder

Michael Stalcup
The Rule

The posted rule says keep your dogs on-leash.
But if a black man asks you to conform,
feel free to treat him like a dog, to storm
at him and point and threaten to unleash

that well-worn discipline: “I’ll call the cops
and say an African-American…”—
’cause “Harvard grad,” “birdwatcher,” “novelist,”
or “neighbor,” “person,” “stranger,” “man,” won’t stop

this white world quite the way that “black man” will,
won’t get police there fierce enough, with knees
on necks—will leave him too much room to breathe,
to be, to speak, to wait for you until

you leash your dog, and stay six feet away,
so he can watch the birds this bright spring day.

Editor’s note: This poem was first published at the Asian American Christian Collaborative.