Sunday, March 23, 2008


We're having another "poetry responds to images"
affair in Santa Barbara next week, with
10 local poets writing in response to photographs
of Essential Workers. Here's my contribution:

after a photograph by Nell Campbell

This is my poem about the Crossing Guard,
about the look of him in his reflector vest
with his whistle hanging down,
those bad super-size sunglasses,
the almost-full-scale cowboy hat.

We're talking one full-scale dude here, this Crossing Guard.
I know him only from his portrait,
holding his yellow Stop sign,
which likely says "Go" or "Slow" on the other side.

In the photograph he stands in a striped walkway
offering a quiet stare that could stop Bigfoot.
"Don't mess with me, Brother," this stare seems to say.
Don't mess with him, Annie, he's your Crossing Guard.

In my poem I want to record something nice about him,
how all the children go safely to and fro
because of him.

He might have turned out to be a Wisconsin Pavarotti.
He might have gone huge as a billionaire in hedge funds.
Instead he's the Crossing Guard.

It's good the children don't get run over.

It's good they skip off to learn fractions,
reach home for milk and cookies.

I think I'll steal an idea for this poem
from The Catcher in the Rye.
I'll say how he's one devoted hombre
who scorned to choose a career breaking heads
as a wrestler,
who'd never be the guy who shot your barking dog.
No, no, he skirted right around the darker side
to guide us on our way.
He's the Crossing Guard.