A salty policeman struggles to lift his hand
to the hand of a stranger.
Community meetings force him
from the comfort of a cruiser.
He walks along an uneven path
through downtown streets
leaving muddy boot prints,
each one crushing his aspirations.
Stress is part of the deal, but where trust once existed,
media has stripped completely away.
The pride once gained by risking our lives for strangers,
is gone. “Stranger” never meant what it does today,
like it did back in the day.
Back when “neighborhood” meant something.
Back when you didn’t ask police to raise your kid,
or scare them straight because they embarrassed you in public.
Back when civil disputes were handled by adults,
when simple things wouldn’t tear at the very foundation
of our society.
Yes, we’re wired for scary things.
Yes, we hunt active shooters
and run toward the gunfire… the evil you pretend
does not exist, that which looms in the back of your mind daily.
Why I risk everything for people who want me dead
is my own mystery. One for me to work out on my own.
My sisters and brothers will continue to protect the innocent,
enforce antiquated laws, and do what we can to crush
So we’re far from simple nuts and bolts,
robotic if you will. Strip away the badge and the gun.
Beneath the pain and suffering is a man or woman,
same as you. Nothing too fancy.
Beneath a ballistic vest and forty-pounds of accoutrements
we want the same thing, and we’re prepared to make
the ultimate sacrifice to obtain or provide it.
-C.L.Swinney (c) 2017
Stranded alone, submerged within concrete walls,
amidst squabbling voices, it finally strikes
me that an ulterior motive is
at play. Instantly, a room choked
with bodies is nearly empty-it’s
just me and her. Gold strapped
around my finger tightens and becomes
too heavy to carry. Puppy-dog
eyes continuously bat and she flutters
closer. Lust in her eyes smacks
me in the face like a
two-by-four. I retreat, she
advances. I’d been warned before, but
my age and inexperience drowned the
cautionary, unbelievable tales. She’s up against
me now, gyrating, moaning, and whispering
unmentionable things. My face flushes. Slowly
her hand travels from my shoulder
toward my gun-belt. I take off
like a rocket, up through flights
of stairs, and find the door.
Clean, pure fresh air pierces my
skin. A gaggle of co-workers roar
and point as I flee to
my patrol car. Drenched in sweat,
I reach for the air conditioning
button, then look up to notice
a senior deputy shaking his head
at me. I’ve failed the initiation.
I’m not one of them. A
career shroud in speculation, based on
being honorable, with integrity, is my
punishment, what defines me with them.