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Poem: One Foot In Front of the Other

After 14 years working day shift, a correctional officer details what it takes to survive the night shift

Calling all poets! Corrections1’s poetry column highlights inspirational, moving and funny poems authored by our readers.

This poem is by Kenn Phillips, who has worked as a correctional officer for the state of North Carolina for over 17 years. He spent the first three years on night shift and then 14 years on day shift. He’s been back on nights for five months and has discovered how old he is getting, but he focuses on just putting one foot in front of the other to get him through. In his off time, he has published two novels on Amazon and is working on more, as well as children’s books and possibly a book of poetry.

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One Foot In Front of the Other

I’m so tired

My bones cry and scream, “No more ... please ... no more”

One foot ... in front of the other

I don’t want to be stuck here

My cup, full of liquid strength that fuels my mind

But is no salve for my hips and knees

These stairs ... these stairs

These feral faces, flaring nostrils, gnashing teeth

But now they slumber

And I must count them all

One foot ... in front of the other

Is there even a sky outside above me?

Might as well be pitch on the windows

Black and bleak as my dreams

Lights are dimmed in here

Wouldn’t want to wake the sleeping dogs

Better to let them lie

One foot ... in front of the other

Quietly, though, my dark side peeks its head out

And I don’t deter my keys from jingling at my hip

Is he breathing? I can’t tell

A click of a soft, rubber button

And a golden beam shines in his eyes

Just checking

One foot ... in front of the other

A thousand hours have crawled past my fingers

As they document every single moment

At last, here it is ... the time is nigh

The minute hand reaching high towards the twelve

And my relief ... where is my relief?

Come on! One foot ... in front of the other

Finally, keys and tools turned in

I’m out the door and I can see it

At the end of the path, through the gate

The shining chariot waiting to take me home

One foot ... in front of the other

Take me home

I collapse into the warmth of my bed

And not a moment later

The wretched sound

The alarm yelling orders


I’m so tired

I’m getting too old for this.

Original work by Kenn Phillips
October 2023