:: Article

The Fair Cop

By Tom Leonard.

a cop came to see me
but I didn’t know he was a cop
I’m so trusting!!
and I said sit down and have a cup of tea
and he sat down and had a cup of tea

and he was a young man
a nice looking young man
he reminded me of my son
the taller of my sons
very discreet
a good listener

and I said would you like a banana?
I eat bananas like a gorilla
but the cop didn’t want a banana
he asked me if it was all right to use a dictaphone
and I said of course though I don’t really like dictaphones

and he was interested in all my life
and he wanted to get a few things straight
it would help him with his work
and I’m getting old
there’s bits of me beginning to pack up and go
and I like helping the young
it is one of the pleasures of old age
what else is there for the old to do?

so I told him all I could
and I was very free and honest
I like being free and honest
I like those days when it all comes together
and you know your own story
and you know your own place in the world
and what you have done and why

and he didn’t say very much
come to think of it he didn’t say very much at all
but he had a nice smile
and he seemed a good listener
so I talked and I talked instructing the young on my path through life

and only once did his expression change somehow
only once did his eyes sort of flicker
and that was when I was talking about terrorism
and how they all use the word terror now instead
and I told him I noticed when the change first took place

I said I remember it being Ariel Sharon
how he kept saying terror terror terror terror
fighting terror war on terror fighting terror war on terror
all instead of terrorism

and now the word’s over here

and how this reminded me of the way words would change during the seventies
how news bulletins would change a word even in one day reporting Ireland
how the words on something would evolve to a kind of more acceptable slant

and I told him how I used to rant on then
I laughed how I used to rant on then in the seventies and eighties
all this stuff about changing the laws for the Irish situation
how they would bring the diplock courts over here when they felt they could
how they would find another emergency over here when it suited them

I was really relaxed talking to the young man I know the story of this place
I grew up in it I have eyes and ears
I try to find out different views
it’s part of being free and honest that’s what I was so keen to tell him
it’s not part of being a member of anything it’s just part of being alive

but there was something about that mention of terror
something about the way he reacted to me talking about it
looking back it was almost as if he was suddenly on the job
and his face changed just that wee bit, his eyes caught mine just for a second

though it was only a couple of days later
when I was up for the toilet in the middle of the night
I was up for my usual four o’clock pee
and I’d decided to have a cup of tea and a banana
when it suddenly dawned on me
just out the blue

jesus christ that cunt was a cop!
that wasn’t a nice young man looking for the wisdom of the old
that cunt was a cop!
it’s the War on Terror! he was part of the war on terror!
and that’s why his eyes changed when I spoke about that

of course you can never really be sure of these things
you can’t really tell there’s no way of knowing
who can you trust? can you trust anyone ever?

there seems to be so much being spent on this war on terror
so much about how we need to have more secret police
how much we need more phonetapping
all the news about threats to the fabric of our society
how the whole world is being taken over

it makes me wonder just because I keep questioning it
I can’t help it it’s just the way I am
I like to be free and honest
I hate language that isn’t free and honest

that’s just the truth of it
I can’t put it any other way

and I keep opening my mouth and saying it
what else is there to do when you’re growing old?
you can’t go to your grave without having said what you think

I suppose they just have to keep files on people like me
if I was one of them, I imagine I would

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Leonard has been an intregal part of the Scottish writing renaissance for over forty years. Published in 1969, his Glasgow Poems were the catalyst to a literary counterculture, inspiring the likes of Irvine Welsh, Laura Hird, Arab Strap, Kevin Williamson and Rebel Inc. With his compatriots Alasdair Gray and James Kelman, he has been appointed Professor of Creative Writing at Glasgow University. His works include the central poetry collections Intimate Voices (1965-1984) and Access to the Silence (1984-2004), Reports From The Present (in George Orwell’s words “making political writing into an art”), the CD recording nora’s place and other poems, the Radical Renfrew anthology, highlighting unjustly overlooked seams of Scottish verse, and the only 20th century biography of visionary writer James Thomson entitled Places of the Mind.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, October 29th, 2008.