The 5-2 Blog Tour: Nothing To See Here by C.J. Edwards

The 5-2 Blog TourApril is National Poetry Month, and as part of that celebration Gerald So, the man behind The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly, has organized the 30 Days of The 5-2 Blog Tour to celebrate the fantastic crime themed poetry that appears on The 5-2.

Even if you think you don’t like poetry – I admit I don’t read a ton of it myself – if you’re a fan of crime fiction you really should be visiting The 5-2 on a regular basis. In addition to seeing many familiar names amongst the contributors, you’ll also be treated to the discovery of new talent you may not yet have had the pleasure of reading. Either way, you won’t come away empty-handed or disappointed.

And if you need a little push to get you going, just check out the stops on the 30 Days of The 5-2 Blog Tour, a tour during which different bloggers are taking turns spotlighting a poem of their choice every day in the month of April. I’ve chosen to feature the phenomenal “Nothing to See Here” by C.J. Edwards.

Nothing To See Here

Late afternoon, 1300 block
of North Rural, summer shadows
stretching across curbed sidewalks,

The 5-2 Blog TourGawkers and young kids skulk
to peek, and whisper behind
their hands to each other.
Sirens scream
and choked cries
clot the air.

An officer’s shout moves everyone back
a few feet, more than needed
to get out of the way.

Someone says two speeding cars
shot at each other.

The news later said he was only thirteen.
In the moment, no one could tell
how old he was.

When he was gone, the crowd pushed back
beyond the tape, stared while the officer
stood over a torn and bloodied

SpongeBob t-shirt.


Holy hell, right? There’s as much power, raw imagery, and emotion in those few lines than many authors are capable of packing into an entire novel. And if that last stanza doesn’t hit you like a sledgehammer, well, there’s just something wrong with you because “Nothing to See Here” hits all the right notes… and hits them hard.

Which got me thinking, where does something that powerful come from? How does one not only come up with the idea for something so stark, but manage to present it such a realistic manner? So I decided to ask the man who wrote it, and C.J. was kind enough to answer a few questions about his creation:

C.J., you’ve been a police officer for many years and the poem “Nothing To See Here” was inspired by an actual call you responded to, correct?

Yes, it was. This was the summer of 2006, and I was working middle shift. A 911 call came in about a person shot. It was on my beat and I was only about four blocks away at the time. When I pulled up an ambulance crew was already working on what turned out to be a thirteen-year-old boy who had been struck in the head by a stray bullet fired by one of two cars chasing each other up the street.

How long had you been policing at the time of that incident? Had you encountered anything similar prior to that day, or was that your first homicide scene involving a child?

At the time I had been working the street as an officer for about five years. During that time I had seen at least a couple hundred shooting victims, both alive and dead. This was the first time, however, that I’d seen a victim so young.

Why write the poem from the perspective of a bystander instead of the officer?

Before this poem was written, I had made several attempts to write poems and short stories about police work. None of them worked. One of the many things I learned in my creative writing classes is that sometimes a writer can be too close to his subject. That was the case with me I think, so I decided to try and distance myself from the poem as I wrote to see what happened. “Nothing To See Here” is the result.

You’ve said elsewhere that the event that inspired the poem stuck with you for years after it occurred. Did writing about it change the way you reflect on that day in any way?

Yes, it is one of several incidents that have stayed with me. I can still see that boy’s face and hear his stuttered breathing. The whole process of writing this poem, getting the bones down and then revising and revising and revising, has changed how I access that memory. Before the poem, that image would sometimes just pop into my head and play out over and over. Now, the memory is still there, but it doesn’t come unbidden anymore.

Interesting how in something of a psychological game of tag C.J. has actually transferred the “memory” of that event to me by writing “Nothing to See Here” – and how in spite of myself the image of that dying thirteen-year-old boy and the discarded, bloody SpongeBob t-shirt now pops into my mind unbidden… but welcome.

C.J. Edwards lives in Indianapolis, IN, and has been a police officer for eleven years. His work can been seen in American Blue: Real Stories by Real Cops, All Due Respect, Grift Magazine, The Flash Fiction Offensive, and the debut issue of pulp fiction quarterly Pulp Modern. To learn more about C.J. Edwards visit his blog, Full Dark City.

– Nothing To See Here by C.J. Edwards (Read by Gerald So) –


  • Alec Cizak

    May 1, 2012 - 6:08 PM

    A great poem and some great comments about the craft behind it.

  • CJ Edwards

    April 25, 2012 - 1:37 PM

    Thanks all for the kind words. Thank you Elizabeth for the great write up!

  • CJ Edwards

    April 25, 2012 - 9:19 AM

    Thanks everyone for the kind words, and thank you Elizabeth for choosing my poem and saying such great things about it.

  • AJ Hayes

    April 24, 2012 - 9:59 PM

    Another stunning poem, CJ. I know a lot of cops (oddly most of them were hell raisers when we went to school together. I always figure they had a jump on the job because they already knew what goes on on both sides.)mostly retired now, but to a man they all say what you just did so eloquently — there’s always one or two you just can’t let go of. That stay with you the rest of youir life. I’m going to show those guys your poem. I know they’ll dig it a lot.

  • Kathleen A. Ryan

    April 24, 2012 - 9:51 AM

    You’ve done an awesome job. You chose an intense poem…C.J. wrote an outstanding piece.
    As a retired 21-year police veteran, much of what I write is based on scenes I witnessed, worked on, read about, etc. I know exactly what C.J. is referring to; the death of two little brothers in a fire stayed with me since 1996 ~ and it was the basis of “Playing with Matches” in the Hint Fiction Anthology. As a PIO officer, I responded to the scene; I’m quoted in this NY Daily News article about it:

    • Elizabeth A. White

      April 24, 2012 - 10:38 AM

      I can’t even begin to imagine the horrors police officers and firefighters encounter on a daily basis, but when I read “Nothing to See Here” it really hit hard and it was because of C.J.’s ability to capture even the smallest slice of that everyday horror so vividly.

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