…as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;

But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.”

Joseph F. Smith, Doctrine and Covenants 138: 29-30

Between their laughs—

O, my father? O the horror.
Criminals as stars? Option their deeds,
when the blocked writer won’t talk.
These clothes won’t fit the devil and me.

Track heartbeats. Chase wellness.

Let’s be careful about hooking
a fish the Feds are trolling for. Plus
you got Santa handing out pink slips…
Injustice gets the pulse racing. Then
again, we got bleeding hearts staining
uniforms stinking of cigarette smoke.

Big Apple? Big Top.

IRS? Internal Affairs? Gangs.
Eat your heart out, Chinatown.
Tired guys singing sad like clarinets…
why should they or we hope for better,
when politicians can make suns?

Take the old guys ordering up young
brides like warehoused chickens… their
rights read by cops… cops read their rights.

“Is there a lady’s room?” A cop chuckles,
“When there’s a lady in it.”

Old times…
Suspects keep passing through
like familiar spirits. Victims too.
Made bones get unearthed. Rich
guys look at our rubble and see
a historical landmark for sale.
Hey…

it’s not like we’re married to this place.
On the last day, everyone we fight
and for whom we fight become flashbacks: 

the vandalizers, the prostitutes, the payback seekers,
the robbers, the litterers, the assaulters,
the smugglers, the squatters, the muggers,
the jumpers, the reckless endangering,
the grand thieves on auto, the occasional spy,
and—above all others—the victims
who don’t wanna forgive…

Well, the wise captain, he…
he just finds ways to keep
the ones he can
from doing
hard time

—between our laughs.


Poet’s Notes:

The above poem completes a cycle of poems with the working title Between the Laughs. It’s inspired by the classic sitcom Barney Miller, which ran from 1975 to 1982, starring Hal Linden, Abe Vigoda, Max Gail, and Jack Soo. It depicts the misadventures of a squad of New York City detectives. The poem cycle gives each season one poem, and each episode of each season roughly one line of verse. To start at the beginning of the cycle, read Between the Laughs: A Spirit Prison Sitcom.

For Wheat & Tares readers, I’ve employed a spirit prison analogy by prefacing each poem with quotes from Mormon leaders and scripture. The poems themselves are my love letter to a show that’s helped me get through my early 40s—a show which entered this world about the same time I did.

The poems in this cycle are intentionally choppy and may seem abstract even to fans of Barney Miller. For suggestions on how to get the most out of such poetry, please read Forget the Poet. Love the Poem.