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Poem: "Jamaican Angels" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Jamaican Angels"

This poem came out of the December 3, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from Shirley Barrette and my_partner_doug.  It also fills the "violence" square in my 11-26-13 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by Shirley Barrette.  It belongs to the series Walking the Beat.




Jamaican Angels


Holiday traffic brings out
the worst in people --
and the best.

The streets of Jamaica Plain
are filled with cars,
the sidewalks and stores
with busy people.

There have been incidents
of violence, most of it
just pushing and shoving
over cheap sales,
but a few cases involving
knives or guns.

Dale and Kelly are concerned,
but they both know that
the city has survived worse.
Back in the 1990s there was
the Boston Strategy to Prevent Youth Violence,
and then in 2007 came a branch
of the Guardian Angels.
They helped the citizens feel safe again.

As the two women walk --
carefully now, watching for ice
that might threaten Dale's tenuous footing --
they sometimes catch a glimpse
of a red satin cap and matching jacket.

Dale smiles to see that
under the uniform, diversity
is peeking through:
Jamaican and Dominican faces
prevail among this neighborhood's patrol.

They cross paths with Johnny Long
standing in line at a street cart
that sells hot chocolate and mulled cider.
Over his police uniform is wrapped a black scarf
with a stupendous Chinese dragon in red and gold.

"How's the Code 19 today?" Dale asks.
"Cold," he whines, warming his hands
around a cup of hot chocolate.
"I stopped a fight this morning, though."

"Good job," Dale says,
tucking her own scarf a little tighter.
White snowflakes show against the dark blue.
Beside her, Kelly is bundled in green,
the ends of her scarf knitted into little hands.

Kelly signs a greeting to Johnny,
who juggles his cup to sign back.
Dale picks up their order at the counter
and passes Kelly her hot chocolate.
Dale's apple cider is tart and savory with spices.

A startled cry and a burst of motion
snag their attention.

Johnny leaps into pursuit --
Dale's cane flicks out between unwary ankles --
and the purse-snatcher skids facedown on the sidewalk.
Johnny pounces on him.

Kelly goes to the victim.
She helps the young woman to her feet,
signing, "OK?"
The woman nods back, adding,
"That jerk took my purse
with all the Christmas money for the kids."

"Looks like Officer Long got your purse back,"
says the beverage vendor, coming out
with another serving of hot chocolate.
He hands it to the victim.  "Here, on the house.
You seem like you could use a cup of comfort."

Officer Long has the purse-snatcher well in hand
when a pair of red-coated watchers arrive.
"Is everything all right?" they ask.
"We thought we saw a scuffle over here."

"Thanks, guys," the vendor says,
tipping his head at Dale and Kelly and Officer Long.
"but not all our guardian angels wear red."

* * *

Notes:

The Guardian Angels are a citizen group aimed at making cities safer. They have been active in Boston.

Code 19 means a neighbood foot patrol, used by the Boston Police Department to improve the relationship between officers and citizens.  It works pretty well.

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Current Mood: busy busy

35 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: siliconshaman Date: December 10th, 2013 11:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know.. I can't remember the last time I saw a police officer out on foot patrol around my town.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 10th, 2013 11:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

I've seen them in malls a few times, but they aren't there to get to know people, just to provide a quelling presence for shoplifters. Or young people. Or anyone of color. It's not an asset.
From: siliconshaman Date: December 10th, 2013 11:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Here the police don't do foot patrols, they've community action or special constables to the 'touchy-feely' stuff with people... or did have until the funding got axed. Most of the time they're out in their patrol cars, or in the station doing paperwork I suppose...

Although, the police helicopter is a very obvious presence at least a few times a day, so I suppose that sort of counts in a very 'Big Brother' way. That, and the CCTV cameras on every street corner in the town centre of course. [I kid you not] It's all very hands-off and hi-tech...and usually doesn't involve them until after a crime has happened.

Heck, over here Dale would most likely be cautioned for interfering...and then only avoid being arrested because she was an ex-officer herself. The police here are very against what they call 'have-a-go heroes', and even caution the victims that they should 'leave it to the professionals' and not resist.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 10th, 2013 11:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

>> Although, the police helicopter is a very obvious presence at least a few times a day, so I suppose that sort of counts in a very 'Big Brother' way. That, and the CCTV cameras on every street corner in the town centre of course. <<

That tends to have the opposite effect, creating a barrier instead of a connection.

>> The police here are very against what they call 'have-a-go heroes', and even caution the victims that they should 'leave it to the professionals' and not resist. <<

Which is great if you want to train sheeple to be good victims for criminals and despots, and shitty if you want to have a healthy populace with good problem-solving skills.
From: siliconshaman Date: December 11th, 2013 12:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Yeahhh.. I guess police policy is doing exactly what their lords&masters want it to then.
Re: Well... - (Anonymous) - Expand
johnpalmer From: johnpalmer Date: December 15th, 2013 09:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, yes, but... :-)

I do a lot of "well, yes, but..." hence the smiley....

I also see the police in a two way bind. You don't want to suggest that non-fighter try to defend against a fighting thug, and you don't want to set up situations in which civilians might escalate an encounter from property loss to violence (in the US, much more so). On the other hand, yes, a populace that looks out for themselves and each other is the best defense against criminal activity.

I'm not sure if there are any *good* answers to that bind.
From: technoshaman Date: December 11th, 2013 01:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

I would offer a quiet but firm swing of the finger to the idea that if something is happening right in front of me I can't put a stop to it...

The sooner the Queen remembers *all* of her powers and sacks b----y Cameron the better.
From: technoshaman Date: December 11th, 2013 01:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Neither cops nor others can be *everywhere*. I like it that it was Dale who saved the day deftly and with a minimum of fuss.
From: technoshaman Date: December 11th, 2013 01:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Maybe Kelly sees something coming next time?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 11th, 2013 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

Feel free to prompt for it, although Dale and Kelly tend to have somewhat different specialties.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 11th, 2013 01:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

That is true not just with crime, but with any other urgent situation. It is far better to have everyone taught how to respond in an emergency, so they understand what types of problem they can solve themselves and what really requires an expert. And what to do when you're in the middle of nowhere or poor or an expert is otherwise unavailable. Choosing to make your populace into a bunch of weak victims makes your nation vulnerable; it will either be run over by enemies or collapse from within. Neither of those are good outcomes.
From: technoshaman Date: December 11th, 2013 02:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Good point. Britain if anyone should know that.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 11th, 2013 02:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

... aaaaand now I can't get "A Pict Song" out of my head.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: December 13th, 2013 03:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

This whole conversation gives me a lot of food for thought. One of the things we've been trying to do is be more active in speaking about daily douchery in our lives, even when it's a situation the cops can't be involved with--people screaming horrible things at their kids, people slapping their disabled elders, breaking up wife-beatings, shit like that.

The one time it was a violent altercation, (the wife-beating), I was reckless because the woman was unconscious and I felt I had more HP and wanted to get him away from her. I didn't end up hurt, but I noticed that the people around me mostly told me to be more careful next time... even though the whole POINT was to get him away from someone who was already hurt and who I already knew wouldn't press charges.

It was a dislocating experience for me. To me, it seemed the obvious choice to make--reckless, but also the most likely action to keep other people from getting hurt and the perp behind bars. As it was, no charges were pressed, and I ran into him multiple times later. Thankfully, the altercation took place in the dark and he didn't appear to recognize me, but it really put a bleak cloud over my head every time to see him in my town and feel helpless to do anything about it.

--Rogan
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 13th, 2013 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

>> This whole conversation gives me a lot of food for thought. <<

I'm glad I could help with that.

>> One of the things we've been trying to do is be more active in speaking about daily douchery in our lives, even when it's a situation the cops can't be involved with--people screaming horrible things at their kids, people slapping their disabled elders, breaking up wife-beatings, shit like that. <<

Good for you! There are tips on how to stop bullying of all kinds. It's crucial for people to get involved and not be a supportive audience for that bullshit.

>> The one time it was a violent altercation, (the wife-beating), I was reckless because the woman was unconscious and I felt I had more HP and wanted to get him away from her. <<

Well reasoned. Remember, a hero is someone who steps between danger and another person.

>> I didn't end up hurt, but I noticed that the people around me mostly told me to be more careful next time... even though the whole POINT was to get him away from someone who was already hurt and who I already knew wouldn't press charges. <<

Whenever people say things like that, they are supporting abuse, not just passively, but actively. They are saying it's okay to hurt people, and not just okay but obligatory to stand by while someone gets hurt. That is destructive to the human spirit and to a healthy society.

>> It was a dislocating experience for me. To me, it seemed the obvious choice to make--reckless, but also the most likely action to keep other people from getting hurt and the perp behind bars. As it was, no charges were pressed, and I ran into him multiple times later. Thankfully, the altercation took place in the dark and he didn't appear to recognize me, but it really put a bleak cloud over my head every time to see him in my town and feel helpless to do anything about it. <<

That's the whole point of abuse, and of supporting bullies: to make someone feel helpless.

You're not helpless. You made a difference. Clearly that upset people who like the status quo of being able to hurt each other with a supportive audience.

Fuck 'em. You go right on being heroic. The world needs more heroes. It does not need more cronies.
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