10-7 10-42 St. Lucie 267

Yesterday they laid to rest
Master Deputy Steve Roberts
A deputy killed in the line of duty
Time will somewhat ease the pain
and his memory will slowly fade...
Now, the funeral is over
and the general public will soon forget
about the Sheriff’s Department Motorcycle Officer
that sacrificed his life
“to protect and serve”
the people of St. Lucie County
How soon they will forget
how this man for 14 years
wore his Sheriff’s Motorcycle Division uniform
with honor and pride
watching over and keeping safe
the school children in the area
The kids will miss “Deputy Steve,” his motorcycle
and his mounted patrol horse Dakota
His co-workers, family and friends
will miss his big smile and joyful laughter
around town and the station...

    —Loretta Cox,

This poem is shit.

I’d say first of all, in terms of general craft, that there’s nothing here of any interest. The line breaks don’t work on any level; it’s essentially bad prose, lineated. There’s no apparent musicality to the verse, nor any attention paid to creative or unordinary phrasing. It’s written in a clunky, childish style that is both emotionally and intellectually deficient. 

Of course, these are all forgivable attributes, even ones worth celebrating, if bent towards an interesting purpose. But they’re not. This poem is not interesting. It’s incredibly dull, and full of predictable, vapid writing. 

Let’s look at the first two lines: “Yesterday they laid to rest / Master Deputy Steve Roberts.” To identify “Master Deputy Steve Roberts” so early in the poem only emphasizes how inarticulate Cox is at building any kind of relationship to her subject. The name means nothing—to name this man so early is to ensure that his name enters lacking any weight of address, and amounts to a simple, hollow reminder of the total commonality of death, a point not novel by any standard of measure. Additionally, Cox subjects “Steve Roberts” to such awkward and useless descriptive passages—the obvious metonymic uniform, his stupid motorcycle—so that the end-result isn’t just our complete disassociation with “Steve Roberts” as a figure (because, as a figure, he has no definition or specificity), but also how this extrapolated condition of “Steve Roberts” becomes representative of the phenomena of cop-death in general. “Steve Roberts” represents a conditioned state in which a murdered police officer can be reduced to the symbolic apparati of his job, meaning “Steve Roberts” didn’t get killed, a police officer got killed. 

So, who gives a shit? I certainly don’t. 

I don’t care if a uniform gets shot, or if a motorcycle isn’t ridden anymore. Even his “big smile and joyful laughter,” paltry and indeterminate as they are, only exist “around town and the station,” as if these instinctive, physical behaviors could not be conceived of outside his social position. 

The best moments come when Cox allows the spirit of memorial to drift into obliquely perverse double entendre: “watching over and keeping safe / the school children in the area / The kids will miss ‘Deputy Steve,’ his motorcycle / and his mounted patrol horse Dakota.” Or in her earlier descriptive use of “sacrifice,” which can be read in a gleefully reductive mode, where Roberts is a pathetic kind of martyr, or there’s some necessary, ritual logic to a cop getting killed. This phrasing, that he “sacrificed his life / to ‘protect and serve’,” makes it sound like he protects and serves by getting killed, like his “sacrifice” is what maintains order, not the act of policing. 

And maybe Cox means that, though I doubt it. Because it’s certainly a more thoughtful argument than the cheap sentimentalism one might otherwise discern from this dumb fucking poem.