Lake Michigan, Scene 10 by Daniel Borzutzky

BOMB 140 Summer 2017
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The cop doesn’t want a prayer

He doesn’t want the bodies to stand over the dead animals that wash onto the shore

He doesn’t want to hear the bodies offering love and compassion to their sick friends who rest inertly on the beach

He doesn’t want the so-called healthy bodies standing over the so-called sick bodies and wishing that the sick bodies will recover

He doesn’t want to hear about Jesus or the holy spirit and he doesn’t want anyone to stand or kneel over the sick bodies the state requires him to beat

With his nightstick he beats the so-called sick bodies     the so-called healthy bodies who care for the so-called sick bodies

See the healthy bodies walking away from the sick bodies to avoid the blows from the cop who walks behind them on the beach because they have broken a legal code

They have failed to comply with the authoritative bodies’ attempts to order society

according to a set of logical and common ideals

The camera zooms in on the mouth of a healthy body as the police officer strikes his teeth with a nightstick

The healthy body who came to pray for the sick bodies crumbles to the ground

There are black birds flying above      there are white birds flying above

There are warblers      there are ducks    there are hawks and scoters above the police officer who beats the healthy body

There is a small songbird     look at its brown back     its chestnut cap     its bright yellow undertail that is constantly wagging     the faint streaks of yellow on its side

There is a sparrow with a plump body with white and brown streaks running across it

The birds witness the police officer beating the healthy and the unhealthy bodies

It is beautiful to fly     we sing

It is what the body must always remember

I am on the shores of Lake Michigan

I am lying in my cot with my dog who is panting and coughing and dying from heart failure

I cannot tell an authoritative body anything about my dog’s failing heart or my dog will immediately be euthanized     thrown into a body bag and dumped into the middle of the


My dog is a migrant from Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico he was clubbed by a Puerto Rican police officer for being homeless

He was run over by an imperialistic taxi service

My dog has tropical worms in his heart

Sometimes I pray in my native tongue for his body to rest peacefully

This prayer is an illegal activity

The authoritative bodies have deemed it illegal to pray in another language

Everything the police officer did on the shores of Lake Michigan was legal

It is legal for a police officer to beat a praying body

It is legal for a police officer to beat a peaceful body a brown body a black body a beige body a gray purple healthy or unhealthy body

The courts have upheld the right of a police officer to beat the body of anybody he deems a
threat to public safety

The healthy man praying on the beach for the sick bodies is not actually praying for the sick bodies     he is putting a curse on the police officer

He is praying to a god who is a goat or a deer or a bear or a monster    says the police officer

Your god is an innards-eating quadruped    he says

It’s a mammal but it’s not the right type of mammal

It’s the type of mammal who thinks it can destroy its own shadow

I have the right to beat a body if the body says something that will threaten my life

Words    the police officer says     are actions

You’re a decrepit public body     says the police officer to the man who prays

And your prayers will land you a lifetime         in the foamiest hole        of our diminishing carcass economy

Daniel Borzutzky’s The Performance of Becoming Human is the winner of the 2016 National Book Award in Poetry. His previous books include In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (2015), Data Bodies (2013), and The Ecstasy of Capitulation (2006). He lives in Chicago.

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Originally published in

BOMB 140, Summer 2017

Featuring interviews with John Giorno, Lidia Yuknavitch, Iman Issa, Eric Baudelaire, Ieva Misevičiūtė, Daniel Borzutzky, and more.

Read the issue
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