Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "A Two-Way Street"

This poem is spillover from the January 21, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from rhodielady_47 and lb_lee.  It also fills the "FREE SPACE: parade" square on my 10-6-13 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by janetmiles.  It belongs to the series Walking the Beat.

A Two-Way Street

The spring scandal had been, sadly,
a familiar example of the challenges
that plagued the Boston area police.
Dale and Kelly expected it to blow over,
as such things usually did.

As spring turned into summer, though,
an undercurrent of tension remained,
strumming through Jamaica Plain.

People didn't talk to Officer Long
as freely as they had before,
even though he was cleared of suspicion
and the officers actually in collusion
with the drug lords had been held accountable.

Even Dale found herself getting a cool reception
more often, despite her retirement.
People knew that she still felt a connection
to the local police force.
It didn't happen all the time --
some people still asked her for help --
but the occasional hitch and catch of it
bothered Dale, like stepping on a shoelace.

Kelly frowned over the subtle changes
in body language and proximity.
By July, her patience was wearing thin.
We need to do something about this,
she signed, and Dale nodded agreement,
but neither of them could think of any ideas
beyond what they were already doing.

It was Eryn who suggested a solution,
during a Peace Meeting on community activism.
"Somerville holds this parade called Honk!
where marching bands come to entertain people,"
she said to Dale.  "You and Officer Long
both like the buskers around here.
Maybe they'd help us put together
a little parade to boost community ties."

Dale perked up.  "You mean something
combining police and civilian performers?"
she said.  "That might just work.
Boston has the Gaelic Column;
I bet they'd be glad to come."

"Yeah, we could invite some of the people
who do the Jamaica Plain Music Festival,
and talk to the Street Arts & Buskers Advocates,"
Eryn said.  "They'll know who marches,
and who'd rather ride in a pickup truck."

Ask the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit,
Kelly signed. If they come, we should also get
folks who want to bring back the mounted police.
The horses make a connection with people

From there, the plan took root
and began to grow.
Some people loved the idea
and wanted to join the fun.
Others hated it.

"I don't want a bunch of cops
marching through my neighborhood,"
Juste complained.

Darius, a black boy who busked
as a storyteller to raise money for college,
had a different perspective.
"Brotherhood is a two-way street," he said.
"If I don't hold out a hand to the cops,
why should they care about me?"
Darius performed everything from
African folktales and Uncle Remus
to the Just-So Stories and modern comedy,
mostly with morals about getting along.

It started small, but it grew,
and everyone was surprised
by how much momentum it gained.

Someone in the Jamaica Plain department
had cousins in New Orleans who came up
with their entire krewe to build a float
and then march around it.

Johnny Long was no musician,
but his Falun Gong group heard of the parade
and insisted on performing a routine.

By August when the parade was scheduled to begin,
over a dozen organizations had volunteered,
along with numerous individuals,
despite the relatively short notice.

The park mounties led the parade,
carrying the flag on its tall eagle-winged staff,
stars and stripes snapping merrily in the breeze.

Behind them came the Gaelic Column
dressed in their vivid plaid kilts
with pipes shrilling and drums beating,
then the New Orleans krewe
on and around their colorful float,
some of them dancing with umbrellas.

From the Honk! festival came
several activist marching bands,
a pair of stiltwalkers, and fans in chicken hats.
The Shriners piled out of and then back into
an unbelievably tiny clown car.

There too were the Falun Gong practitioners,
some in glossy gold uniforms that shimmered
as they moved through slow exercises,
and a group of pink-robed women who danced
with pastel lotus flowers in their hands.

The buskers included all sorts of musicians --
a fiddler, an accordion player, several guitarists --
along with jugglers and other performance artists.
The mime kept running into walls, falling down holes,
and tripping over invisible obstacles.

A girl with tousled blond hair balanced a sketchbook
on her knees as she drew scenes from the parade.
The air smelled richly of barbecue where a restaurant
had brought out a portable grill and a whole hog,
sweetened with notes of cotton candy and spiced nuts.

Dale and Kelly watched the whole parade
from a friend's porch, and afterwards
they went down to get barbecue sandwiches
and ice cream cones for dessert
from a truck that Eryn pointed out to them.

The buskers had scattered to settle down
in places where they could put out a hat.
Dale and Kelly passed Darius
doing a three-way argument amongst
Br'er Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and Nanabozho
as to who was the best trickster.

The atmosphere wasn't perfect,
but it was much improved,
and they caught a glimpse of Johnny Long
half-buried in a throng of gold and pink uniforms.

Now and then Dale would see
someone she knew from her old job,
a quick bittersweet twinge of recognition.
Dale smiled and waved at them,
and held Kelly a little closer.

This was their place now,
weaving themselves into the community,
encouraging people to connect with each other,
because understanding was also a two-way street.

* * *


"I believe in the brotherhood of all men, but I don't believe in wasting brotherhood on anyone who doesn't want to practice it with me. Brotherhood is a two-way street."
-- Malcolm X

"Understanding is a two-way street."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Read about the Honk! Festival of Activist Street Bands.

The Gaelic Column is a Boston police band.

Browse the Jamaica Plain Music Festival.

The Street Arts & Buskers Advocates aims to keep cities safe and accessible for the performing arts.

The Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit still exists, although the Boston Police Department Mounted Unit was closed due to budget cuts.  Efforts are underway to restore it.  Horses offer advantages of going where a police car won't fit, giving officers a height and weight advantage in a crowd, and making a connection with people under peaceful circumstances.  The Philadelphia Police Department is fighting to keep their horses.  Mounted police have assisted in many community projects such as working with disabled children, and retired police horses sometimes become therapy mounts.

A krewe is a group of people who build floats for New Orleans parades, and sometimes travel elsewhere in the off season.

Falun Gong is an Asian religion that gets a lot of persecution.  They sometimes perform in parades, so I'm borrowing a lot from an example I saw once.  Watch a video of another Falun Gong performance.

Stiltwalkers are popular in parades too.  Shriners are famous for their clown car acts, among other things.

Trickster figures appear in many cultures, often as rabbits.  As an entertainment trope, it's "Rascally Rabbit."  You can read more about Br'er Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and Nanabozho.

Tags: activism, community, cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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