Table of Contents



Justin Davis



Pig Ears (Alt Text)

This poem is modeled after a declassified memo. The right side of the page gradually darkens, until the edge of the page is fully black.  Just below the poem’s title, there’s a black and white image of a pig laying flat, its eyes closed. A caption next to the image reads, “Figure 1.” A stamp partially covers the image and caption; the stamp reads, “ALL INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS UNCLASSIFIED EXCEPT WHERE SHOWN OTHERWISE.”


TO: ———
FROM: ———
DATE: —— 2021

as in, crockpot put to work for a night shift; saran wrap torn open, tossed aside; these parachutes held taut with cartilage; pig ears; I’ve been chopping onions in half, running cold water over them; crushing garlic under the shiny heel of a knife; too much of those pigs and they’ll cut your life in half; in the body’s story they are always the heel; bathing with Lawry’s and pepper flakes; I put the lid on tight so no noise stirs up the water; the best-laid plans can float off in a whisper of steam; yeah, you know; the hustle of ear hustling is real; I’m talking about pig ears, as in, when that undercover pig added me on Facebook I knew he was a pig; he had a Guy Fawkes mask for a profile picture; like, nigga, this is not 2009; this is the year I wonder if the world won’t outlive me; I drive to a protest and my mom jokes about prepping bail; I keep the bumper stickers off my car so 12 won’t start checking for it; I remember the first time I knew I was a blip on a radar; and the first time I really saw it for myself; you know, they put out these Joint Intelligence Briefings; my name’s not on them, but my friend and my friend and my friend are; my boss and my boss’s boss; my acquaintance and my acquaintance; a whole ecosystem under an earlobe; I guess this is what they mean by community policing;

(Continued on page 2)

In the bottom right corner, a stamp reading “CONFIDENTIAL” has been crossed out. 

The second page has the same “CONFIDENTIAL” stamp in the bottom right corner. The left side of the page is fully black, and gradually lightens; the left margin of the poem is partially gray as a result.  Another stamp below the poem reads, “ALL INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS UNCLASSIFIED EXCEPT WHERE SHOWN OTHERWISE.”

(Continued from page 1)

the next morning, I lift the lid off the crockpot, get some intel; the ears are coming along nicely; I report back to my grandpa in the living room, who tells me if I really want to go to ———, he should introduce me to a cousin down there who’s a detective, in ——— or some place like that, somewhere black enough to wrap me up in safety; I feel bad, because there aren’t many relatives whose gaze I truly hope to stay out of; I am not itching to swim in the pot with the pig ears; I am already close enough for my senses; my name’s not on the Joint Intelligence Briefings, but they flagged a meeting I planned a few years ago; a couple hours on a cold ——day in ———; we spoke our hopes for the city’s cracked sidewalks; we sold t-shirts and had a potluck; cookies, punch, and pig ears; please don’t misunderstand me; I never wanna front like I have some special importance; there’s no honor in being watched; just a head and a gun soaking up light on your collar; imagine someone wanted you dead and it felt like a kind of care; what I mean by this is: you can always tell the ears are ready by their tenderness; how soft they are; like you could whisper and they’d fall apart;





In 2018, the ACLU sued the City of Memphis for illegally surveilling community organizers, activists, journalists, and progressive politicians. Under the city's purview, Memphis police used [fake social media accounts]—supposedly created to track gangs—to track local struggles for liberation. [I've written about that surveillance before], but not from this angle: I put this poem together while caring for my late grandfather, an organizer from the Black Belt who inspired me to pick up that work myself. It's an attempt to find traces of myself in the archive of state violence, an archive that is always growing, that seems to touch anything left out in the open.