coping

Free form poetry.

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Rope

It hangs there, the knot fashioned neatly, calling me

like my mother did when I was out past sunset

running with the fellas…even a few girls.

We played in the street, living free then. But those days are gone.

Forever.

Each shift, negative contact, complaint, or

snide comment from those I serve

draws each loop tighter, choking away what little air that remains.

I cannot be sure anyone would bother to cut me down.

A lone truth that stings.

What is it that brings me back each day?

Much to live for, sure, but for the others, not me.

Is that really true?

Blasts from my past, from lives I watched expire,

swing the rope back and forth, gently at first.

An evil grin

on my weathered face

grows impatient…

hoping the wooden beam

the rope is affixed to

cannot support my weight.

–C.L.Swinney (c) 2017

The Pitfalls of Workman’s Comp.

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The suspect, after robbing a bank and holding an elderly female hostage, sprang to my left almost daring me to chase. I could hear the sirens of my partners coming quickly but a voice inside told me to pursue. We leaped over fences like Gazelle and I caught up with him with ease. We began to wrestle on the ground, it’s then that I realized he was a mountain of a man. He clearly had MMA training, as did I, and we took turns trying to pass each other’s guard- looking for an opportunity to end this. He made a move for my sidearm and that’s when the bell in my head said, “Do something now!” When it was over, I pulled myself up from the ground and instantly felt shooting pain in my back, shoulder, and arm. Uh oh.

Okay, okay. It didn’t quite go that way…

I’d like to say I was doing something great when I injured myself at work, but alas, I was not- in fact, it was as ordinary of a Thursday as one might imagine. The Ford Taurus (at least the law enforcement version) is notoriously narrow in the driver’s seat. For a fella like myself with many tools on my belt and perhaps a few extra pounds, it’s EXTREMELY narrow. In fact, most guys I know have to twist and contort their body to get out without hanging up on ย the steering wheel with their gun or radio or some other piece of equipment. And that is what I did. I contorted and twisted and got out of the car near the end of my twelve hour shift and grimaced after something popped in the upper right part of my back. Fearing the fellas would “clown” me, I continued my shift and went home to pop Motrin and chase it with Makers.

Later that evening, I woke up with tremendous pain, but not just in my back, but my shoulder and elbow felt like a jackhammer was repeatedly hitting my bones and muscle. Oddly, my index finger and thumb on my right hand were also tingly and numb. Like most men, I called myself plenty of unspeakable names and sloughed off to the couch “to sleep it off.” I had hoped whatever it was would go away soon as my mom was coming to town for a visit.

I managed to make it to Saturday morning. The pain made my eyes water and took my breath away at times. I went to urgent care, and although I know the doctor meant well, he managed to make the pain almost unbearable. He shewed me out of his office and like the pill junkies I used to chase, I drove as fast as possible to Walgreens to “get my fix.” Unfortunately, the pharmacist reminded me I couldn’t drive if I took two of the medications. I drove a bit too fast and rather rudely home, ripped open the pill bottles, and took them hoping for a miracle. NOTHING HAPPENED.

Fast forward through six weeks, three doctor visits, three physical therapy sessions, two changes in medications, a pending acupuncture session, and STILL, the same pain in the same spots (and no x-ray or MRI). The only change being that instead of sleeping like a posed murder scene on the couch each night, after four weeks, I finally managed to sleep one night in my own bed. I’ve been going through Kaiser because the injury is work-related and being handled through workman’s comp. I originally bad-mouthed some of the staff to my wife, but honestly, it was the pain, lack of sleep, and my own lack of understanding my injury that was talking. Overall, the people there seem knowledgeable and friendly.

However, the pitfalls of workman’s comp is that THERE IS NO ONE TO TELL YOU WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE. Sure you can ask around and put bits and pieces of the puzzle together, but that’s not enough.

I’ve worked most of my life, beginning in high school. I’m known for being a hard worker and helping others- it’s what I do. So sitting at home has taught me a valuable life lesson: You must be about you, and not about your job. Your job cannot define you completely. You must realize that family and friends, coupled with other interests, must remain your focal point, not the job. I’m not saying my job isn’t important and I’m not saying you shouldn’t do your very best every single shift. But, if I don’t ever go back, no one will miss me. The machine will continue to run…and prosper. My employer will actually save money if I’m forced to medically retire. I’ve left no legacy at the office. I’ve built a strong and admirable reputation sure, but some kid coming up through the ranks will meet and eclipse what I’ve already done in a shorter amount of time- making most of what I’ve done obsolete. And, THAT’S OK.

I’m making dinner, even recipes off Pinterest (don’t judge), more these days. I’m reading more, helping more around the house, helping more with the kids, and I actually feel better. Having said that, there’s been moments where I’ve walked the block looking for mischief and my eyes have burned from watching too many shows on television (many of which I had no idea would EVER be on television. I’ve even cracked a few brewskies, helped my buddy with his startup company, and sketched out the outlines of a few more books. This has been an eye-opening event, one that I started out wishing like hell never happened. But now, I’m enjoying the change and looking forward to the future with an open mind.

My first officially published poem!

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Super stoked right now. Chiron Review published my poem, Free Parking. It’s based on a murder I witnessed many years ago. Please check it out ๐Ÿ™‚ ย -Chris

http://www.chironreview.com/current-issue

Joe

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Joe:

Blood, and other stuff in my veins, is lethargic. I negotiate a kiosk and lumber toward the bevy of people lined up like candy bars in a vending machine, some anxious and some fearful, to be selected. A myriad of lifestyles gather in a tumbler seeking a reason to punch the clock another day. A loud gum chewer smacks and twirls surveying temptation, while the rest of us grovel with sullied thoughts. The espresso gadgetโ€™s clamor infuriates my needs, since it’s not for me as it chimes for another. My time comes. My heart palpitates without the need for narcotics. Then caffeine, and whatever I adulterate it with, is stirred, always clock-wise, immediately drawing my palate erect. Cautiously I cradle my tin cup up to my lips and tip ever so slightly.

Dying Set Me Free

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Dying Set Me Free.

I was nine when I died.

I trembled while lying in bed,

wide awake, suddenly the door opened.

He slithered in, fueling his needs,

and did the unthinkable by taking

his son’s life. Once I felt

his touch, my soul fled from

my body. I tried, but could

not stop it. I watched as the

carcass of my body gasped for

oxygen as the demon left my

sanctuary. My mother, she knew nothing.

I dared not mention such things.

Awake, or asleep, it always persisted.

When it ended, unknown, but I

was reborn, more evil, more angry.

I’m thirty-nine now. My soul

sleeps with the fishes, while the

mental war rages, even a generation

could not save. I lie in

bed, awake and trembling, searching for

the nine year old helpless me.

 

C.L.Swinney