Tell the Truth Or Bring a Toothbrush | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Tell the Truth Or Bring a Toothbrush

A poem by Jimmy Cvetic

We were ambitious men
Not like Caesar, who was stabbed to death in Rome.
Not that kind of ambition for that kind of power.
It wasn't for money
Nor fame but ambition for truth.
Hard to understand unless you took the oath
And swore to duty
And honor.
Detective Cosmo was working the streets
Going down into the darkness.
Usually making deals for heroin and cocaine
After the hours when the bars were closed
And in the places of filth 
And sins of the flesh.
Cosmo blended into the conspiracy of drugs
Long hair and beard
And even rode a hog like an angel from hell.
A tool of the trade is the informant
And there are four kinds.
Those that like to tell and polish apples
Those that tell for bags of silver
Those that tell because they're in trouble
Those that tell because they're crazy.
And I've seen brothers tell on brothers
And lovers turn on lovers,
But the never-never rules
Never ... not never ever
Trust an informant.
But the unwritten law of the street at the cost short of selling your soul
Their identity must be protected.
Now Cosmo made a deal
For illegal drugs
Could have been cocaine
Maybe Crystal 
Or even Morphine
(I remember but I don't really want you to know
For it's still the Code that must be honored)
And it might have been in Natrona Heights
Penn Hills
Or might have been even in Duquesne.
Maybe all of these places or maybe Nowheresville just 
Three miles south slightly north to the west or east of Never-Never Land.
(I remember the place but again I don't want to tell
The location for fear of opening the box that would 
Invite men of less honor to dishonor the code.)
Anyway, Cosmo was standing in front of the judge
Who knew truth from books by the letter of the law,
Pounding his hammer like he was beating the spirit out of the blind lady with the scales.
Like every decision that he made would later after his death
Be written down by a scribe
And discussed at the Vatican
And would become reasons for his canonization for sainthood.
He's retired now and I think he died but
It doesn't make much of a difference in this story
Except I want you to know his character.
A good man with purple and pomp
But knew nothing of the street.
(I will never divulge the judge's name because he might still be holding that hammer
And might even crack me on my head to loosen my memory which
Would cause my tongue to flap and to tell you the truth
And a man only wants to remember so much.)
Anyway, Cosmo arrested a pusher for Simple Possession 
& Possession with Intent
& Delivery of a lot of illegal drugs.
Enough drugs to get a whole schoolyard of little angels stoned where even prayer
Wouldn't help and
Enough drugs to tizzy a youth camp into rehab and
Enough illegal drugs to tag your little cherub's toe straight to the morgue. 
That's how much and the kind of drugs that Cosmo took off the street.
The pusher hired a silk-tie attorney
And he managed to twist truth like it was a pretzel.
The judge told Cosmo,
"I want you to bring in the informant by 1:00 p.m.
Or you better bring a toothbrush.
I'm putting you in jail."
Cosmo ran back to HQ
And into Sergeant Manley's office.
"Sergeant, I need your help the judge is going to put my ass in jail
Unless I bring in the informant."
Sergeant Manley said, "Not a problem."
He handed Cosmo the Pittsburgh Press and 
Told Cosmo, "Here's the obituary, pick one."
Cosmo said, "You want me to pick a dead guy
And tell the judge that's my informant?"
Sergeant Manley said, "Dead men tell no tales. 
I'm going to lunch, want to come along?"
Cosmo said, "I can't tell the judge a dead guy is the informant."
Manley said, "Then I guess your ass is going to jail."
Cosmo went over to the coffee pot
Poured himself a black cup of coffee
Sat down and had a blank stare on his face.
All the guys looked at him like he was a ghost
And found reasons to leave the office.
I stuck around and asked, "Cosmo, what are you going to do?"
Cosmo said, "I guess bring a toothbrush
And tell the judge the truth."
I asked, "What is the truth?"
Cosmo said, "That the sun rises in the east and sets in the west
Every day, even when it rains."
I asked, "And the informant?"
He said, "He has the right to live."

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