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Pride by Diana Goetsch


by Diana Goetsch

from In America (2017 Rattle Chapbook Prize Selection)

for Paula Schonauer

I’ll never forget the smell of mouthwash

on the breath of two old Choctaw women

who got picked up by a cop and taken to detox.

The cop was my friend, a six-foot-five

woman who joined the Oklahoma City

Police Department as a man

and transitioned on the job. Nobody

on the force would be Paula’s partner,

so she patrolled alone, occasionally

inviting guests to spend a day

on her beat in the Capital District,

south of the river, a tough area,

almost as tough as Paula, who stuck

her big smiling head in every dollar store,

liquor mart, nail salon—“Everything

okay here?”—steadfastly, day after day,

until she was liked, or appreciated,

or accepted enough to be ignored.

Every now and then she’d get

a dispatch call to another part of the city

to handle some public rowdiness.

Her superiors hated her, but they knew

no one she arrested ever resisted,

and occasionally, as if under a spell, perps

confessed to her, saving the cost of a trial.

We found the women in the dirt,

reclining against a Walgreens.

Have you ever smelled someone

drunk on Listerine? Picture rotting feet

in formaldehyde. They were all

hiccups and smiles as they tumbled

into the back seat. “Watch your head

sweetheart,” said Paula. “Oh thank you

sir,” they replied. She didn’t correct them,

just delivered them. Serving With Pride

the words on every squad car in that city.

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