You leave home every morning

With a badge upon your chest;

You don’t know if today will be

The day you’re put to the test.

You’re surrounded every day

By murderers, thugs, and gangs;

Your every step is watched

By someone wishing you would hang.

They’ll lie to you and steal from you

Every chance they get;

The have nothing left to live for

And they’ll kill you on a bet.

They’ll kill each other too

Whenever the chance comes up;

Divided into gangs they know

Sooner or later they’ll take that thrust.

Every day your eyes are trained

To watch these guys every minute;

You never want to turn your back

Or you’ll find a shank thrust in it.

The badge you wear covers your heart

But won’t stop a prisoner cold;

If anything it makes him hate

And only makes him more bold.

Every day you never know

If you’ll be going home;

You trust your gun to keep you safe

But the challenge is too great for some.

Courage, honor, pride, and truth

Are the colors that you wear;

Everyday you have them on

Without them you wouldn’t dare.

You won’t dare to go inside

Without them, not even once;

Your gun, your spray, your cuffs

All hang upon your belt with trust.

Then one day all Hell breaks loose

The prisoners planned a riot;

It’s ever man for himself

And there’s not a moments’ quiet.

Hell rises up and roars so loud

You can’t hear your partner screaming;

He takes a shank in the throat

And  you stand there and watch him bleeding.

For half a second you can’t move

Then your training kicks in real fast;

You take out two of the rioters

Who’ve got your partner down, almost breathing his last.

Peace is restored in record time

The prison is on lock-down;

Your partner lives without a moment to spare

And you drive slowly through town.

You think about what might have been

Had any guards not made it;

But courage, honor, pride and trust

Were the colors that had won it.

Karen Teich-Cluster lives on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay, Alabama. She 1st wrote in the 6th grade, winning 1st place in the Human Relations Day Essay Contest, now Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  She has been writing poetry for over 30 years and is also at work on self-publishing a book, “The Odyssey of Me”, which includes many poems about war.  Karen is also well traveled, having been raised as the daughter of An Army helicopter pilot who served 2 tours in Vietnam and a magically brave stay-at-home mother.