“A Sudden Protector” by Alan Jernigan

Alan Jernigan


“People want specifics,” the cop said. We were standing in the middle of the park, staring at each other. “For example, they’re going to want to know about the bruises.” “What bruises?” I said, shuffling in my stance and trembling awkwardly. “These bruises,” said the cop, as he bludgeoned my arm with his nightstick. “They’re going to want to know who gave them to you, and they’re going to want to know why.” “But there’s no reason,” I cried. “You’re just doing this. What am I supposed to tell them?” “Just describe it,” said the cop, stomping on my feet with his military-grade moccasins. “Describe it all.” “I’m not going to want to talk about any of this,” I sobbed. The cop’s face lit up with a pleasant smile. “My name’s Officer Gordon Swift,” he said, “and it was not my intention to cause you any harm. I suddenly feel very protective of you. Come with me, son. I’m gonna take you to my lonely apartment, and you can get into my bed and nestle in the sheets and feel real cozy. How’s that sound?” “That sounds great!” I said, feeling happy and cared for. “Hey, my bruises are already gone!” “Yeah,” said the cop. “That’s because of magic.”

from Rattle #58, Winter 2017


Alan Jernigan: “You ever been in a department store, maybe wandering around Sporting Goods, and you get to a little clearance section, and amongst the items there’s a single metal detector on sale, or something like that, just some random object that means little to you but that nevertheless catches your eye. And suddenly you imagine someone else, another shopper desperately looking for an item like that, someone who gets excited just thinking about finding that metal detector. And for a second, you feel an odd dizziness, almost like you’re going to swoon, but you know you’re not, and it’s not a bad feeling. Just overwhelming. Because even though you might not know this other person’s motives, for a second there you just felt their emotion, their desire. It would be cool if a poem could invoke that vertigo of seeming to start to fall into someone else’s life, or someone else’s mind, or another form of logic, or a form of non-logic. I’m not sure if my poems do that, but I think that’s one type of feeling I tend to strive for.”

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