Playing with form



I step into the bullpen. The precinct is buzzing with noise; detectives interviewing witnesses, rowdy detainees in lockup.

“Morning, Sergeant,” I say.

“Morning, Detective.”

I sit at my desk. There is a file waiting for me. I open it up. My partner reads over my shoulder. She pats me on the back.

“I’m sorry.”

I sigh.


I walk out of the bullpen. The elevator is empty. The street outside is dark.

I open the file in my hands. It is a case I worked on years ago. I solved it and arrested the murderer. I got injured on the job and was awarded a medal. It was the toughest case I have ever worked. I still have nightmares about it.

The case has been reopened.


The tan walls of the precinct and the white tiled floor and the gold badges hanging from silver chains around necks are busy this morning. The detectives sit at their gray desks in the middle of the bullpen, interviewing witnesses ranging from white-haired old women to beanie-clad punks. The detainees behind the dark blue bars of the holding cell crowd against the chipped gray walls.

“Morning, Sergeant,” I say to the burly man with the ropy muscles.

“Morning, Detective.” He nods his head and sips coffee from a silver travel mug. I sit down at my cluttered metal desk and see an old manila envelope waiting for me, bursting with papers. I open it and read the scrawled lines on the arrest report, see the picture of the unshaven murderer I’d caught years ago attached to the file with a paper clip. My partner stands behind me and reads over my shoulder. She pats me on the back with a smooth tan hand, nails filed to perfect crescents and painted over with clear polish.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

I sigh. The page at the top of the file flutters with my breath.

At the end of the day, I take the file home with me. The potholed street is dark and empty, most of the cars gone. I stop underneath a streetlamp and stand in the circle of faint yellow light. The manila envelope is heavy in my callused hands. I open it back up and stare at the scraggly face of the man I arrested eight years ago. He has dark, oily hair, a shadowed face, brown, soulless eyes.

His case has been reopened. My hands tighten around the envelope. The wind blows the pages back. The light on the streetlamp flickers out.

Free verse

Work is work,

The precinct busy, the day just starting

I say hello to the sergeant

He replies with a greeting

I sit at my desk and see a file in front of me

I open it and read it while my partner stands behind my chair

She pats my back

Offers her condolences

I let out a breath

I take the file home

I stand outside and read it one more time

Look at the face in the picture

My signature on the arrest report

The paperwork old and worn

The torn edges of the folder

All the work I did,

So many years ago,

Now for nothing,

Because the case

Is not closed after all.



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