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Elliot Street, Brattleboro, Feb 22, 2015

Elliot Street, Brattleboro, Feb 22, 2015


I just watched you get arrested.

The waitress noticed it first.

Oh, wow, she said, someone is getting arrested

And I saw two policemen talking to you while

one of them pointed something in your face.

The fact is, I had just walked past you,

and had been afraid,

(because you looked a little out of your mind, to me,

or maybe just permanently off)

that you were going to ask me for a dollar

before I could slip into the brew pub.

Now, I am using your story

to create a poem, or a newsstory, or

something else, and I am not sure that is fair.

I am trying to do it honestly.

I have to write and turn in three chapters by next Thursday,

and I am writing about you instead.


I passed by you, cringing over my fear that you were going

to ask me for a dollar, and you yelled out

“Hey, Myrtle” and Myrtle,

wearing clothes as roughened as yours

came across the street.

I found myself wondering what things

you two took for normal

that I would consider deeply disturbing

until I got used to it and

then I relaxed and entered the brew pub,

and got my table,

got my coffee, and got ready to write

when the waitress blurted out

the news of your predicament.

The police officer had this thing that looked like

a white plastic gun, and I was afraid you were about to get

in the face and looked like you were snarling,

as you talked, your head tilted to the side

like a teenage bull, and then you opened your mouth

and the police officer put what must have been

a breathalyzer in your mouth and he appeared to pull the

And then you went back to talking,

and looking very, very, angry.

To me, you looked entirely like a belligerent

middle school student, your body contorting and shrinking

and twisting some as you talked, not gonna backing down,

but it was causing you some effort, apparently.

And then, the officer put the white plastic back in your

He took it out, looked at it,

And then you put your hands behind your back,

and after some wiggling, you were handcuffed, and then

you fell.

You fell forward and out of view, beneath the plane

where the frosted glass of the restaurant made you

And next you were up,

and your face looked rumpled

as though you had hit the street with your face.

The police looked calm,

and stressed out at the same time, and maybe a little sad.

I was glad I did not have their job,

removing drunk people
from the street.

And I worried for you, and the hours

you have ahead of you,

and the years that you

may have had behind you,

and the years that may be winding from now

until your end.

This is my version of prayer.


I dreamed last night that particles of toxic smoke

swirled up

like a murmuration of starlings

each bit of pointed sooty poison moving independently

and yet in concert with every other,

forming a malevolent cloud of invincible

contaminated, and contaminating menace.

I awoke.

I asked my wife

to hold me.

And she did.





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Thank you,

Thank you. Such a very Brattleboro moment.


Partial view and personal reaction

It probably goes without saying, but, my impressions of the event are just that.

From where I was sitting, the police did not appear angry, or aggressive. That of course is a lot easier for me to say since I wasn't the one being arrested, but they appeared calm, and to this observer, professional.



Although I am a word person, poetry generally escapes my notice. But this was perfect in every way. The ending means so much more than it says.


The Name and Nature of Poetry

It was handy that I had that nightmare the night before, as it was waiting to go somewhere useful. I have my own understandings of why it felt like it belonged at the end of that particular poem. I am glad to hear it worked for someone else. Thanks for taking the time to let me know. You throw things out into the ether and don't know where they land, or even if they land at all.

Its been awhile since I read it, but A. E. Housman wrote this essay called the Name and Nature of Poetry, and I believe that this is what he says is one of the things that makes poetry at times more potent at times than prose.

This is such a terrible paraphrase, that is doesn't even warrant the word, but he said something like, "No great poetry is ever fully understood, but great poetry can create more understanding than an equal amount of prose."

He also wrote a lot of great and terrible poetry, in my humble opinion. At least he had his own favorite spoofers of his poetry.

If one knows even a little about the border wars between England and Wales, and the geography of the land, his poem called The Welsh Marches can be a moving experience. Or at least, it still gets me. But that poem Easter 1916, by Yeats about the Easter uprising in Ireland is maybe more on the mark. "What a terrible beauty is born." I still get crushed by that one.


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