This Time

The sound of the sirens gets
louder and louder and
nearer and nearer as I
sit with my back to the window
and my head facing a computer
at which I am trying to write.

“Are they coming for me
this time?” I wonder to myself
as I try to write and attempt
to calm my nerves as they
are stretched taut by the sound
sirens growing louder on the road.

And then the sound dies down
as the police car moves
further down the road
away from me and where
I live.  My nerves relax, my
breath slows down, and I
resume my peaceful writing
knowing that they are not
coming for me this time.


It is not enough to merely say that one dislikes sirens [1].  I can imagine few people who enjoy hearing the sound of sirens, and when one lives near a busy intersection as I do, even in the suburbs of Portland, one is going to hear sirens a lot.  This is especially true because the busy streets near where I live happen to be places where sheriff’s deputies lie in wait for unwary speeders to increase the revenue of their departments.  Of course, these are commonplace observations.  There are many people who dislike the sound of sirens.  There are also many places where police officers of various kinds lie in wait for unwary speeders seeking to enrich the revenue of their departments.  Such phenomena are fairly widespread in this republic.  Yet we do not see many poems of this phenomena.  Most people find sirens irritating, but it is an irritation which soon passes and does not prompt reflection or creativity.

Why, then, write a poem about it?  It is one thing for an event to be commonplace, but yet another for it to be an inspiration for art.  What factors led to this being the sort of incident that sparked some creativity for me?  What personal context do I bring to bear on such a situation?  Let us note the factors that moved this incident from an ordinary and unremarkable one to something worth exercising at least a little of my creativity.   For one, I am probably a bit more sensitive to the sound of blaring sirens than most people are.  That is to say, what is only a slight and passing annoyance to others is something that taxes me a bit more, and thus makes it more likely that such an occurrence will trigger the threshold of my writing about it.  Let us also note that I am someone who has (albeit not in this country) had some awkward interactions with police officers [2].  Moreover, this awkwardness was a result in large part to my writing.  In addition to this, I have a good deal of experience dealing with people in several facets of my life who have an extreme hostility or aversion to the police in general and who are not shy about expressing that hostility.

Therefore, what we have here is an unusual confluence of factors that takes a common occurrence that would strike few people as worth writing about it and makes it the sort of situation that was perhaps almost inevitable that I would write about eventually.  We have a commonplace irritant that triggers unpleasant and somewhat lasting nervousness and that also triggers a cascade of unpleasant memories as well as reflections about the thoughts and behaviors of others.  And so we have a fairly simple poem that results from it that takes this momentary irritation and its physiological actions and turns it into a vaguely ominous poem about someone whose response is interesting and perhaps unusual and striking, ending with the ominous “this time,” as if there might be another time when those sirens are in fact blaring for the narrator of the poem, presumably yours truly.

It might seem odd that someone living in the United States, and someone of a generally law abiding sort such as myself, would have such feelings about police sirens.  Yet there are ordinary people in this world who do have to fear approach of police for one reason or another.  If that is an unusual concern for a law-abiding professional white American man such as myself, it is not an unusual concern for people in other circumstances.  And, as a blogger with somewhat of a reputation for writing about awkward and delicate and potentially dangerous subjects given my subject matter expertise and interest in military history.  In that light, I would consider myself a person who perhaps lives as bit more dangerously than most people do, and those who live dangerously at least by the standards of where they happen to live tend to be concerned about the forces of law and order, whether or not that concern is justified by either their conduct or circumstances.

In light of the ubiquity of police officers in the United States, it is perhaps surprising that we don’t see more such poems.  Or perhaps I am surprised I do not see more of this kind of poems, as it is possible that such poems are rather common among poets who, for various reasons, never cross my attention.  There are many people who want to write against the police and speak out against them, but I must admit that while my feelings about law enforcement is fairly ambivalent, I am not filled with raging hostility towards them.  I recognize that police is important to preserve law and order in a society that is largely losing the force of individual conscience in order to direct conduct, even if I want as little as possible to do with the police as is possible.  I imagine most people feel the same way; if they think about the police, it is with a theoretical approval of them and a more practical desire not to get to know them up close and personal if at all possible.  And yet in a world where the presence of police is seemingly omnipresent, it is perhaps all too natural to wonder if they will someday come for you, especially if you see yourself somewhat out of step with the society around you.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to This Time

  1. Pingback: O Tinnitus (After Gerard Manley Hopkins) | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Audiobook Review: Blink | Edge Induced Cohesion

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