Soft, lazy afternoons in quiet neighborhoods, where children
Play innocent games.
Mothers watch, contented, idyllic life
Scenic pictures of another day in paradise.

Large, comfortable homes perched on lofty hillsides
Sit majestically, overlooking a sea of lights
As late evening sneaks past crystal lakes.
Soft light glows from bedrooms
Where children are tucked in to sleep, safe and secure.

Street scenes, a world away, where children carry cold steel
Orphans of lost promises who steal other’s dreams
Neglected, abandoned, refugees from society
They are victims of themselves.

On 33rd and Bradford,
Up three floors to a cold, barren one room flat,
Little Eric cries himself to sleep.
Alone, while mother works as the sound of gunfire
Crackles faintly in the distance.
In the morning, the longing remains and the hunger in his belly.

The savage beat of hard rock blasts out its intoxicating rhythms
Tonight, the spirit is restless in young hearts
Who prowl the streets in fast cars.
The music tells the story, the words cut like angry glass
It’s an old familiar love song, it’s the sound of Concrete Blonde.

Deadly, defiant, drugged, and desperate
Young hoodlums work alleyways, waiting for their prey.
Unsuspecting, easy for the taking
A watch, a ring, a gold chain, or a human life.
For the sake of pride someone will lose their life.

Out of the shadows with a 9mm in his hand,
Marcus carries off the spoils of victory:
A pair of sneakers and blood on his hands
Another statistic, another death unnoticed.

Jenny is sixteen going on thirty.
She never dreamed it would be like this:
A room with a view overlooking desperation.
She methodically paints her lips garish red,
Sprays on cheap perfume and dusts off the last
Line on the dresser.
Black leather skirt, see through blouse, stockings and heels
Ready to ply her trade.
Just another working day in America.

The alarm goes off on schedule and soft country music plays.
The house is dark and cold, but work waits for no one.
Brenda can’t be late again.
Joe will awaken later with the smell of whiskey on his breath,
Pretending to look for work.
She still believes in him, he believes in cheating
This is her third marriage, and they have all been like Joe.

Streets glisten with early morning dew.
Darkness prevails with its mysterious texture,
Blanketing everything it touches
And the silence screams out to be heard.
Ribbons of white smoke curl to the ceiling from unfinished cigarettes.
Steam rises from a freshly poured cup of coffee,
As the talk show host prepares for another long stint on the radio.

On the graveyard shift that nobody else wants,
The radio blasts out a monotonous voice.
That prompts a change of the dial.
Easy listening music at this ungodly hour
Marking time until the shift ends on the ramp.
Huge, silver monsters that hug the ground like dinosaurs.
Aircraft await their time to soar again
But in the cool, breezy night parked on the tarmac
They belie their grace, their majesty
When set in motion to fly away into the morning skies.

The police radio crackles its familiar sound.
Prompting unit 16 to urgently go on its way.
The dispatcher calmly calls out the destination
And the officers prepare for the worst.
Over slick streets and darkened roadways to a code 10 emergency
Never knowing what they may encounter.

Russian roulette for the public good.
The morning air fragrance of a new day awakens America.
And all over this land
In small towns, on rural farms and bustling city streets
In steamy kitchens, on dew glistened roads
And in busy office rooms
Americans greet the new century
With great anticipation, hope, excitement, and uncertainty.

Rock Martinez is a 75 year old veteran who has been writing poetry, short stories and novels for over fifty years.

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