2 poems, by mike wilson

thin blue line

Smoking cigarettes and writing
love letters to Jesus
as mortar fire draws near
and mortal life twists in fear,
I have absolute faith
in my ability as a hostage negotiator

and know the victim, myself, very well.

A SWAT team of mothers
with rolled-up newspapers
is positioned at the cardinal directions.
I try not to be
the silhouette snipers shoot at.
Like any professional,
I act like I know what I’m doing.

Look at my face, I scream,
or this will end badly!
This is the bad cop talking.
This is the beer talking.
This is God to Jonah in the belly of the whale.
This is Jonah to Nineveh after that,
from the neck up, not the shaking hands.

God’s busy, so they sent me, see?
I’m engaged in active listening, see?
So, come out with your hands up,
emerge out of empathy
through rapport so thick
you can cut it with the knife
tucked in your waistband.

Smoking cigarettes and writing
love letters to Jesus,
doing the paperwork
while CSI photographs the blood,
listening to mortar fire
echo in the distance,
twisting in fear.


first responder

There’s an active shooter on the end of the bar
armed with cigarettes and Singapore Slings.
If I step forward, she steps back
falling into empty arms that do not catch.

Help, she cries.

She’s wearing a suicide vest
packed with low self-esteem.
Even if I pull the cord, she says,
no one will hear me go bang.

I put my hands over my ears.

The horsemen of the Apocalypse circle her skull
like Indians around a covered wagon, shooting
a barrage of arrows that make access impossible
except by a SWAT team of angels.

She hopes.

The rocks cry out Who is accountable?
The spider eyes of the universe look at me.
I send her doves inside the breath of my breath.
I pry her fingers from the gun.

Hold still, I say, while I patch that broken heart.

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