If You Are Going To Arm The Police

If you are going to arm the police,

Arm them with guns whose recoil is felt

In the shoulder of every man

Who calls it necessary.

Load them with bullets that carry

The memories of every time

the finger makes the decision

To fire first,

pass sentence

and serve justice

without protection of judge or jury.

Require that those who demand reasonable force

Bite those bullets

Taste those thoughts.

If you are going to bring back hanging,

Require that, after each execution,

The hangman sits by your bed

And describes the last look in the eyes

Of the condemned man

Before the hood was placed on his head.

The sound of his final breath

Before the noose tightened.

The smell of his flesh

as sentience ebbs away.

If you are going to eat meat,

Require that you walk a while

in the slaughter-man’s bloody boots,

Share a pint and hear the song

of he who fires a bolt into the face of a cow

Again and again, time after time, hour after hour, day after day.

Know what that does to his soul.

If you are going to send in the army

To win your just war,

Be prepared to hold a mother’s hand

Tell her how bravely her son died

How his sacrifice was worthwhile

A fair price to pay.

How her loss is the nation’s gain.

Feel the words crumble to ash on your tongue

And choke on the dust of her contempt.


  1. Andy a lot of times I don’t even know how to respond to your brilliant poems and essays. You always cut to the quick. Right to the heart of the matter. What you suggest in this poem should be standard procedure and why, I ask, is it not?


    • Thanks Renee. I was drawn to write the poem following the recent shooting of a British police officer. There were calls in the British press and amongst people who I know, people that live in my town, to arm the police and bring back the death penalty. Clearly, the situation is somewhat different in the States but I am aware that my view of life over there is filtered through the media. So, I was very interested to hear your reaction. As a person whose opinions I have come to respect.


      • What we get is filtered through the media, too! However, I do belong to a group that has speakers speak at their meetings and sometimes we get public servants whose observations, I feel, are to be trusted more than the media. I think, by in large, that the human race has a culture of violence that is left over from days where violence was necessary just to survive. We haven’t moved on from that and I wish we would. I feel I am in the minority and that is worrisome to me.


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