“When I Grow Up” by Joshua Rupp

Joshua Rupp


I had a cousin who joined the cops because he couldn’t be a fireman.
He wanted to drive the big red truck from the time he was a kid,
when it bellowed through a parade like a polished dragon.
I forget why he couldn’t. It was something about the test.
Anyway, it was fine. People, if you think about it, are a type of fire,
they conflagrate instead of flock, they eat secrets they then forget.
That may have been his reasoning. Sometimes, when you are
not a fireman, the best you can do is stand next to something important,
like the statue of a saint, or Gettysburg, or the Walk of Fame.
Right now, he is standing next to a burning car. He is watching
its seats shiver into acrid mulch, the chrome glossing over with pitch.
He is a tall broad man, radiant as a mirror now, and close,
so close to what he wanted to be when he grew up,
like a door through which water almost poured.

from Poets Respond
June 18, 2020


Joshua Rupp: “I wrote this in response to the militarized police response to the protests that began last week. Although the cruelty is not new, the scrutiny is. Right now, the attention is rightfully put on those who are and are being harmed. This poem is my attempt to explore our connection with those who do the harming.”

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