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.
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,
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."
* * *
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.