Cops and Robbers (from Characters)

Hi! This is Phoenix. I’m super excited to share this poem, from my book Characters. If you like what you read, you can find more information and the book itself here:

Anyway. I’m excited to share this poem, because out of the hundreds of poems I have written and the five plus collections of poetry I have written, this is one of my first poems, and is, for its own reasons, one of my best poems. I wrote most of Characters when I was a teenager, and while there is a prejudice against kid writers, I think that, based off my experience, people produce some of their best work when they are kids. Some would disagree with this claim because they say the kid doesn’t have enough experience in life to write well, but I think that is precisely the wrong way to look at it. How I see it is, kids have potential when they write poetry because they have such a unique (and sometimes innocent) perspective to offer the world. It’s the fact that the child hasn’t mastered poetry that ironically allows them to master their own poem. Of course, that’s only my theory, but I think that youngsters have a lot to say, and due to their unique perspective and their special emphasis on imagination, they can write very beautiful poems.

That aside: I would say this poem came from a troubling time in my life. Actually, most of the poems in Characters came from a troubling time, which means that the poems in the collection Characters are very raw and unfiltered, where to me the magic is. Sure, Characters as a collection of poems might not be a literary masterpiece, but it is something special. It came from a special place for me, from a raw place, a place that hurts. Poetry became my way of surviving my teenage years, surviving the abuse, surviving the alienation from friends and the loneliness that brought about, as well as the loneliness that the diagnosis of my mental illness brought upon me when I was fifteen and moving through teenhood. They were hard years, but I learned a lot, I kept a record through poetic stories (sometimes incorrectly referred to as “narrative poems”), and that exists for your enjoyment in the book Characters. I can’t let go of the past because I am so entwined with it, but at the same time, it is this collection of poetry and writing this collection of poetry and sharing this collection of poetry that has somehow freed me.

And that is where the magic is.

Enjoy …

Cops and Robbers

A kid and his friends went
out to a field, playing Cops and Robbers,
feeling jubilantly, excessively
alive, even for their innocent age.

As they were playing one of the kids
stepped on a nail; the rest of his life
would seemingly be impaled on a bed
of those filthy spikes.

He didn’t tell anybody, and it was
too dark to notice the blood
pouring out of his sole,
as though weeping the endless flaws
of human intention.

The night before, he had told his
father that if he died, it would be
fitting for his ashes to be spread over
the sea, because he liked the idea
of redemption, even though he didn’t know what
that meant.

He didn’t know his father needed that
type of sanctification—the father was a
hard core criminal that evaded getting caught.

Seemingly, the kid caught his father, a
Cop—and the robber swore he would never
participate in crime again,

when the boy died. They spread his ashes over
the sea, as though forgiveness really was reachable,
and life wasn’t too insistent on its devastating
capacity for sin.


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