PORTLAND — When members of the Police Department were approached in 2008 and asked to write poetry for a calendar, many were less than enthusiastic about the idea.
This year, officers and the professional writers they were paired with turned out more than 80 poems to contribute to the 2010 Police Poetry Calendar.
“Last year, we kind of strong-armed officers,” said Cmdr. Mike Sauschuck, whose poems are featured in the 2009 and 2010 calendars. “This year, 14 officers volunteered.”
The calendar is a project of the national Arts and Equity Initiative “Art at Work” and is a collaboration between the city and the nonprofit Terra Moto, and is directed by Marty Pottenger. The 2009 calendar attracted national attention, with stories in The New York Times, The Guardian, the Chicago Tribune and on several television news outlets.
“It takes a lot for a cop to decide to write poetry,” Pottenger said at the unveiling of the new calendar Nov. 25 at the police station. The officers teamed up with local professional writers to craft poems that capture the everyday issues police deal with, both personally and professionally.
“The artists leaped and jumped at the opportunity to take part,” said Pottenger. The calendar also features photographs taken by officers and professional photographers.
The 2009 calendar was dedicated to Sgt. Robert Johnsey, who died unexpectedly in 2008. Part of the proceeds from that calendar (it sold for $15) went to the Johnsey Fund.
The 2010 calendar is dedicated to Sgt. Rick Betters, a veteran officer who died unexpectedly of a heart attack this year. Like last year, proceeds will be split between Art at Work and the Rick Betters Family Fund.
A poetry reading is scheduled Wednesday, Dec. 9, from 6-8 p.m. at One Longfellow Square, 181 State St. The reading is free and open to the public.
The 2010 Portland “Police Poetry Calendar” is available for $15 at local bookstores or online at amazon.com.
A complainant hears a scream,
I speak to mom in the kitchen,
Nothing’s going on.
Jenny stands in her crib,
brown curly hair, solid brown eyes, quiet.
Dave carries Jenny to the kitchen,
her cheek pressed to his shield.
Look at this
Four red lines blaze on her cheek and neck.
We can see the handprint,
only the thumb is missing.
I look at mom, want to try again?
She wouldn’t stop …
An ambulance ride,
caseworkers from the state en route.
In the ER all gather around Jenny,
doctors, nurses, paramedics, child protective.
Minutes pass by then a gasp,
On no, officer come look!
Bare skin on her back exposed,
four curls of flesh like her wisps of hair,
raw, tender, a bloody bite.
Mom has left her mark on Jenny.
I look around the room,
tears spill from those gathered around her.
Mom cries the most.
As I lead her away,
Jenny’s eyes are brown, solid,
My eighteen years,
wearing camo then blue.
Her eighteen months,
wearing black and blue.
Jenny and I have learned;
We cry inside.