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An Angel Speaks to the Imprisoned Derek Chauvin

“Although it has been difficult,
__I know you’ll make it through.
Of course you never were at fault;
__There’s little you could do.

The cards were stacked against you from
__day one by those who lack
A sense of how quick punches come
__When facing an attack,

Who don’t think how you risked your life
__Day in day out for years
On streets where guns and drugs are rife
__And everybody leers.

When margins could mean life or death,
__Then force must be a guide
Through jungles thick with crack and meth
__And rampant homicide.

Unbridled force may well kill those
__Who don’t love their own lives
And if that’s how the story goes,
__That’s fine since justice thrives.

Take heart in knowing I was sent
__By The Nine Worthies: souls
Of ancient heroes permanently
__Fierce, as suits their roles—

There’s loyal older brother Hector;
__There’s David, young and brave;
There’s Charles, a cultural protector;
__And Josh, a former slave;

There’s Arthur keen for lively sport;
__There’s enterprising ones:
Jules, Alex, Godfrey are that sort,
__While Judah hits and runs.

These souls more real than prison walls
__Look out for you, a knight.
It may seem that their justice crawls
__Through many years of blight,

But one day you will see the result
__And debts will all come due.
Although it has been difficult,
__I know you’ll make it through.”

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Poet’s Note: The Nine Worthies are nine paragons of chivalry revered in medieval Europe. They are Hector (from the Trojan War and Homer’s Iliad); Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Joshua (Israelite leader), King David, Judas Maccabeus (also known as Judah Maccabee), King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon.

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Evan Mantyk teaches literature and history in New York and is President of the Society of Classical Poets.


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28 Responses

  1. Daniel Kemper

    The Marxist war goes on. No one knows what to believe. The data are corrupt and all is just a puppet show. Glad there’s someone to take the subject on. And a place where it may be taken on.

    Reply
  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Whatever side of the debate one is on, this poem is undeniably well written. The poetic portrayal of the dangerous daily grind of a police officer is particularly striking in politically charged times where there is scant appreciation for just how tough the job of policing is. Thank you, Evan.

    If anyone is thinking (just like me) that the knee restraint looks brutal and inhumane; if anyone is thinking (just like me) that this type of restraint shouldn’t be allowed, this should not impact thoughts on whether or not Mr. Chauvin should serve time. The verdict was purely political. Tony Timpa, an innocent white guy from Dallas, died while under exactly the same restraint, yet, the mainstream media ignored it, and the police officer applying the pressure was not charged.

    Reply
  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    Thank you for this poem, Mr. Mantyk. When people talk about “taking risks” in poetry, this is the real thing.

    This frame-up and railroading of Derek Chauvin is the biggest fraud since the Dreyfus case. But since we are now a soft-left dictatorship under vermin like Biden and Harris, there is no recourse.

    Reply
    • Anne Hiltner

      Thank you for being brave and forthright in speaking out for a fair trial

      Reply
  4. Mike Bryant

    Evan, I agree with every word of this poem… one of your best ever.

    Reply
  5. James A. Tweedie

    Along with Susan, I can acknowledge that the poem is well-written.

    I can also agree that social and political bias and prejudice were inseparably present in the charges made, in the setting of the trial, and in the verdicts that were rendered.

    I cannot, however, agree that Derek Chauvin’s actions on the day in question as regards George Floyd were in any way appropriate, justified, defensible, or worthy of praise.

    Susan says, “Whatever side of the debate one is on . . .” I am glad to see it acknowledged that SCP members and participants may respectfully disagree on this matter.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      James, I am sickened by every aspect of this incident. You say Derek Chauvin’s actions were not “justified, defensible or worthy of praise” – yet, wasn’t the man doing what he was trained to do? Wasn’t the restraint legal? I hate the restraint. I hate the outcome. But, I cannot let my feelings stand in the way of justice. As I pointed out, exactly the same barbaric restraint was used on Tony Timpa. I hated it then. What I hate more is the hypocrisy. Why is George Floyd held up as a saint who has all the world rioting in his name, when no one knows of the death of Tony Timpa?

      Where does the fault lie? I don’t believe it lies with Chauvin.

      Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      … and why is Derek Chauvin in prison when the police officer who killed Tony Timpa is walking free? It’s political, hypocritical and evil.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Get used to it, Susan, because you are in Amerika now. It’s not your fault what has happened; it’s just a coincidence. There’s no doubt that Chauvin got railroaded, but this has happened before to many persons of many races and ethnicities. There’s not much justice down here, and we are left with the hope that there will be divine justice up there, which doesn’t do much for the aggrieved parties in this world. Imperfection is what human beings are best at.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        C.B., you’ve put everything into perspective far better than I could, and I agree with every darn heart-rending word. I’m sorry to say, it’s the same in the UK.

      • James A. Tweedie

        Susan, I do not know the circumstances surrounding the death of Tony Timpa.

        I do know that laws vary from place to place and I am well aware that DAs often apply those laws in ways that (to me, at least) appear to be subjective and arbitrary–blatantly reflecting social/racial/economic/political bias.

        I also know that according to the testimony of the Minneapolis Police Trainer and the documented texts of police procedure documents used in Chauvin’s training that the specific and extreme circumstances under the which the knee-on-neck restraint is allowed were not present in the George Floyd situation. His use of the knee restraint was therefor unauthorized. Regardless, even if the extreme circumstances had been present he violated the manner in which the knee-on-neck restraint is to be applied. He also violated his clear and specific training on how long a cuffed suspect is permitted to lie face down on the ground before being turned on their side. One of the attending officers reminded him of his training in this matter, and asked him to turn Floyd on his side. Chauvin verbally ordered the officer to maintain Floyd’s position in direct violation of the training he and the other officers had received. It is clear that the officers knew or at least suspected that Floyd was experiencing a medical crisis since early on they requested an ambulance. Not long after, at least one of the officers recognized that Floyd’s situation had become a medical emergency and raised the request for medical assistance to an emergency/priority level. Through it all, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck and his face pressed against the rough asphalt pavement until he stopped breathing and kept it on his neck even after there was no pulse. That is why I assert that his actions on that day were neither appropriate, justified, defensible, or worthy of praise.

        I am also of the opinion that the charge of first degree murder was politically motivated and (although my opinion might be different if I had been a juror) given what I know I do not believe Chauvin should have been found guilty of that charge.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        James, thank you for this. Although the choke hold was legal at the time of the arrest, it doesn’t appear that the guidelines were followed. Then again, the general public is never given a true and full account of events. I don’t believe Mr. Chauvin had a fair trial. There was a member of BLM on the jury. In fact, I don’t believe there is much in the way of fairness anywhere these days, for black and white people alike. It saddens me.

      • Conor Kelly

        You are right, Susan. It is political, hypocritical and evil that the police officers (more than one was involved) who killed that poor, murdered man, Tony Timpa, are walking free. The video of his death is as disturbing as the one of Mr. Floyd’s death. It is good to see that someone on this site is arguing against police corruption. Mr Floyd and Mr Timpa should be alive today. Derek Chauvin, as you correctly argue, should not be the only police officer imprisoned for his murderous actions.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Thank you, Conor, and not every policeman should be tarred with the same brush as those who fall from grace.

  6. BRIAN YAPKO

    Evan, I also want to second what Susan said. I think this is a masterly poem on a very difficult subject. I am certainly troubled by some police tactics — especially those that result in injury or death — but I also know that I don’t have the experience to say whether they should be changed or not. I also know that race should be irrelevant to police methodology. I also know that it is disingenuous for the criticism of police standards to shift depending on who the victim is and how politically useful the incident is. Having both worked with, and against, police officers for many years in my law practice (including several excessive use of force cases) what I can also is this: they have the most difficult, dangerous and stressful job of anyone out there. Most of the officers I’ve been associated with — or sued — have been more than honorable — they joined the police in the first place because they cared about law, order and the protection of our citizens. Despite mistakes, they chose a profession which is noble. One thinks of such things when you represent police widows or the orphaned kids of a dad who was shot dead by a criminal defendant or an officer who ends up paralyzed from a bullet in the spine. Police officers are in harm’s way constantly. No, they are not above the law. Ever. But you can bet that I go out of my way regularly to say “thank you for your service.” Thank you, Evan, for writing a brave poem that reminds us of the bigger picture.

    Reply
  7. Margaret Coats

    A brave poem, Evan, and one that has evoked valuable perspective in the comments, especially that from Brian Yapko. Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!

    Reply
  8. Elizabeth

    What an incredible poem Mr. Mantyk! You have created beauty from an ugly and dark moment in history. Everyone deserves a fair and just trial, especially our brave in blue, who shelter and protect us from the ugliness and depravity that exists in this world. I wish I had your gift with words.

    Prayer to Saint Michael:
    Saint Michael the Archangel,
    defend us in battle.
    Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
    May God rebuke him we humbly pray,
    and do thou,
    O Prince of the Heavenly Hosts,
    by the power of God,
    cast into hell satan,
    and all the evil spirits,
    who prowl about the world
    seeking the ruin of souls.
    Amen
    I say this prayer every day.

    Reply
  9. David Watt

    Thank you Evan for presenting another side to the mainstream narrative. I think that we all have an aversion to deaths in custody (black, white, or brindle) no matter our views on particular circumstances. I’m glad you pointed out the difficult task faced by police in the field.

    Reply
  10. Roy E. Peterson

    What a marvelous and masterful piece of writing, Evan! It has been decades, since I last read of the Worthies, You brought them back to mind with shimmering elegance. I agree completely with Susan Jarvis about the “dangerous daily grind of police officers.” Floyd was a violent person intent on harm. Regardless of the methods to use restrain him, I believe Derek Chauvin made an informed determination that he had to be held by any means possible. That decision on the method of restraint was in the purview of training and procedure. Actions in the field can always be criticized from those who did not participate and those sitting behind desks, or racial facades. I disagree with James Tweedie that the restraint was unauthorized. Whatever it takes to gain control must be authorized. Remember, everyone, that Floyd was the aggressor and put himself in that situation through his own actions; therefore, he was not entitled to anything other than what he received. The travesty of justice is that Chauvin was convicted by vile national news, black activism and FBI pressure in sending a team to Minneapolis, ostensibly to take Chauvin into national custody, or investigate the jury should he not be convicted. (The latter is my opinion for the reasons they were sent.)

    In any event I applaud the bravery of Evan in taking on the subject matter and making something beautiful.

    Reply
  11. Martin Altman

    I suppose what I object to in this poem is the inability of author or angel to consider the other side of the issue. Of course, the poem is a reflection of the author’s or speaker’s point of view. And that is fine. So my objection is to that point of view, no matter how well expressed. The poem seems to be a defense of the police point of view, and of Chauvin’s actions. There is no awareness of another reality. George Floyd, who was killed by Chauvin does not appear in the poem. George Floyd is part of the other reality that the poem does not address. Including this reality would not mean that police are disrespected. and would not mean that one does not realize that police officers take great risks every day. But the other point of view would include the occurrences of excessive violence by police, as well as other problems with American policing. If the poem has a concept of justice it begins and ends with an appeal that the difficulty of policing be understood. But not every decision by the police is a correct one. Not every decision by a police officer is proportional to the incident in question. I don’t think Chauvin actions were correct, nor were they in proportion to the force needed.

    Reply
    • Evan Mantyk

      Dear Martin Altman,
      Thank you for your comment. This is not supposed to be a news article. Actually, I imagine it as part of a larger play that would address the other side, as you suggest. However, if you take a look in the news media, that side, that of George Floyd, has been covered so exhaustingly, so ad nauseam, that I suppose the Muse has delivered this particular part of the play to me for a bit of equanimity. You are, of course, free to disagree. That is the beautiful thing! You should read Ms. Bryant’s recent poems on the danger of losing this right, which you and I have both exercised: https://classicalpoets.org/2021/05/15/a-woke-recipe-for-disaster-and-other-poetry-by-susan-jarvis-bryant/

      Reply
      • Martin Altman

        I really do appreciate your reply. I’d be very interested in reading your play. I do understand that a poem isn’t or should not be a news report. Someone, perhaps Mary Oliver, said that a poem is not a news article. Perhaps not in relation to your comments, but from other comments, I get the sense that those commentators think many people do not understand the police perspective. I would agree. But have those very same people tried to understand the perspective of black people who for hundreds of years have lived in a society that denied them human and civil rights. To find a way of giving voice to both legitimate perspectives, and the struggle that entails, would be quite an achievement, and an important one. By the way, I have written a poem about Derek Chauvin. May I send it to you?

  12. Anne C Hiltner

    One of the problems with the Chauvin incident is how TV news presented it – endless repeats of the first video without any context inflaming people in quarantine who took to the streets – often with good intentions. None presented the facts of change since 1964 or offered public forums to discuss racial issues – in essence, brainwashing the public.

    Reply

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