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Poem: "A Long Way to Fall" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "A Long Way to Fall"

This poem came out of the January 21, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from siliconshaman.  It also fills the "betrayal" square in my 12-8-13 card for the Genprompt Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  It belongs to the series Walking the Beat.

A Long Way to Fall

When the rumors first started,
Dale and Kelly ignored them.

The Boston Police Department
had a problem with corruption
that went back for years.
You learned to work around it
and not pay too much attention,
or you'd spend all your time
barking at shadows.

It was inevitable that when
the public put you on a pedestal --
whether as a celebrity or a civil servant --
you had a long way to fall.

Dale and Kelly thought that
the Jamaica Plain police
were doing a good job, though,
especially cutting down on drug dealers
infesting the seedier streets of town.

The two women kept an ear out
as they walked the streets and parks
in the late spring weather,
tulips and hyacinths blooming everywhere.

The rumors persisted,
sharpening over time,
and that bothered Dale
because she couldn't quite detach
herself from police work completely.

She always felt a little betrayed
when the people responsible
for upholding the rule of law
undermined it instead.

Then one day they met Johnny Long,
not in his patrol car or in uniform,
but in a plain black shirt and jeans
just sitting on a park bench feeding birds.

Dale and Kelly settled
onto the far end of the bench,
Dale propping her titanium cane
between her knees.

"I got suspended," Johnny said.
"Suspicion of corruption."

The betrayal had turned personal.
Dale sighed and looked away.

"IA is looking into it," Johnny said.
"This is bullshit, really,
and I don't want to talk about it."

"Fine," Dale said.  "Have you seen
the new jugglers at Jamaica Pond?"

Johnny had not seen them,
but was interested in the description.
Like Dale, he enjoyed buskers;
they were entertaining to watch
and they saw a lot in return.
If you treated them with respect,
sometimes they'd even talk to you
when you were working a case.

After a few minutes, Dale and Kelly
resumed their walk.
Dale updated Kelly on
what Johnny had mentioned.

I think something fishy is going on,
Kelly signed.

Johnny didn't say much,
Dale pointed out.
It's an ongoing investigation,
not something to gossip about

His mouth may have kept quiet,
but his body was shouting,
Kelly observed.

That was a challenge
in having a Deaf friend:
you could choose not to speak,
but you were always saying something.

Ongoing investigation or not, people talked,
because the drug runners wanted to know
which cops were good for business
and which were bad news.

Johnny Long wasn't the only one involved;
several other officers had been accused
(or had accused each other) of such things
as taking bribes, stealing cocaine, or selling it
in a storm of finger-pointing.

Dale advised people about the tip line
in case they had real evidence to present.

It was Beaubrun who reminded Dale
of different type of corruption.
"Officer Long is a good guy,"
Beaubrun said to Dale as they
watched ducks swimming in a pond.
"I don't think he did all that stuff
that people are saying he did."

"Any particular reason for that,
or do you just have good faith in a friend?"
Dale asked him, throwing bread to the ducks.

"Some guys think it's funny
for the cops to tear each other down,"
Beaubrun said.  "I think somebody I know
must have seen them doing it."

Among the more serious problems in corruption
were planting or otherwise falsifying evidence
and plotting against other police officers.
"You should definitely report that," Dale said.

Beaubrun shuffled his feet.  "I dunno,"
he said.  "To them I'm just
another grown-up delinquent.
They wouldn't believe me."

"Maybe they will, maybe they won't,"
Dale said.  "You won't know unless you try."
She brushed crumbs off her hands.
"You've been studying restorative justice.
Is it right to stand back and let someone
get in trouble for things he probably didn't do?"

"Guess not," Beaubrun muttered.
"It's just ... with my reputation ..."

"Your reputation is what you make of it,"
Dale said.  "So you made some mistakes earlier,
lots of people do that.  What matters now
is whether you make up for them.
Go make yourself a new reputation.
People will figure it out eventually."
Dale patted Beaubrun on the shoulder
and then went to catch up with Kelly
who was watching two birds build a nest.

It was Kelly who noticed that
some of the ruffians seemed
happier and more relaxed now,
which was hardly a desirable outcome.

I think they wanted to get rid of
the more effective police officers
who made their lives difficult,
Kelly signed to Dale.

That would make sense,
Dale replied.  If they knew
the right people on the force,
the trick might even work
There were always rivalries
that could be exploited.

Dale and Kelly did their best
to direct information
where it might do some good.
They had no way of knowing for sure
if it actually helped the investigation,
but later that month they saw
Johnny Long back in his patrol car.

People were a little suspicious of him,
a bit more tense than they used to be.
Dale and Kelly made a point of stopping
to chat with him when they saw him
walking the beat through the neighborhood.

They couldn't make the whole problem go away,
but they could choose to include Officer Long
in the flow of the community again,
and that was enough for now.

* * *


The Boston area police have had problems with corruption for years.  Internal Affairs is the department responsible for investigating such issues, although the name may vary from one city to another.

Jamaica Pond is a park in Jamaica Plain.

Deaf people often, though not always, read body language faster and better than Hearing people because they are used to parsing physical motions as a primary mode of communication.  There are beginning to be studies that support this observation.

Betrayal -- or even just the suspicion of it -- can do tremendous damages to relationships.  Know how to deal with betrayal.

Reputation is what other people know, or think they know, about you.  It can lag quite far behind current personal development.  There are ways to change your reputation as a teenager or improve a bad reputation in general.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
From: siliconshaman Date: February 1st, 2014 11:36 am (UTC) (Link)
In case I didn't say before [sleep dep'ed here, so not sure] I do like this, the resolution isn't what I expected but upon reflection, it's better not to have it completly cleared up. Life isn't neat, it goes on and nothing really ends.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 1st, 2014 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked this.

In my observation, life is messy. When there are accusations of betrayal, people get upset. Even if it turns out to be a misapprehension, trust can be difficult to rebuild. A situation like this is usually not something that a community can just handwave away -- especially in a context where corruption has happened in the past, even if that was with different people.

So this is going to take more than one poem to clear up. In case you're interested in this storyline, "A Two-Way Street" (listed on the series page) is a sequel and deals with some efforts to reconnect police and community.
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