“Traffic Stop” by Pankaj Khemka

Pankaj Khemka


The officer asked, Do you know why 
I pulled you over? So I tried to explain about the correlation 
between an unhappy childhood and the need 

to pull, about how Elon Musk invented Teslas 
because we’re all characters 
in Grand Theft Auto, about needing to outrun 

my future, but he wanted to see my license and registration
so I pointed at his chest with my gold finger (in the shape of a gun)
showed him the Valentine’s cards stuffed in my glovebox

handed him a snapshot of my border collie at the beach   
because a badge needs a quota like a chew toy 
needs a puppy, but he asked me to step 

out of the car, put the world in a backwards spell, 
touch my eyes with my nose 
closed, so I put on my blue 

shoes, walked heel to toe,
cartwheeled for the crowd, asked 
if he could share his body-

cam video on my wall, which is to say I promised 
to donate a kidney for the Policeman’s Ball, which is to say I signed 
his autograph book

and as he rolled away, the radio played, 
there will be an answer, let it be, let it be.

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021
Tribute to Indian Poets


Pankaj Khemka: “I was originally born in Nagpur. After my family emigrated to the United States, I became a physician, specializing in infectious diseases. My cultural influences, both Eastern and Western, color my poetry in the way I see first-world problems from a more holistic perspective.”

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