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Wednesday, August 21, 2019


by Alan Walowitz

The New York City police officer whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death in 2014 was fired from the Police Department and stripped of his pension benefits on Monday, ending a bitter battle that had cast a shadow over the nation’s largest police force. Commissioner James P. O’Neill’s decision to dismiss the officer, Daniel Pantaleo (pictured above in May), came five years after Mr. Garner’s dying words—“I can’t breathe”—helped to galvanize the Black Lives Matter protests that led to changes in policing practices in New York and around the country. Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Associated Press via The New York Times, August 19, 2019.

Some more fake news from the great American fable:
a baseball shatters the neighbor’s window
into a bullseye of splinters
as the old guy emerges, face on fire,
newspaper rolled into a cudgel clutched in his paw.
But a pussy cat at heart,
he’ll remember when he was young and will smile.
Or a doughy lady gets launched like a pinball
after too much slow-baking,
and more than a little tippling,
her apron aflutter and rolling pin awag,
but she’ll offer cookies to the kids.

In our tale, the window always heals itself
or gets forgotten in the false fever
of our Mayberry dreams—
We’ll make America great again.
Turns out it never was about the window,
only a way to get our next episode rolling.

If you attend to a broken window
the whole neighborhood’ll get fixed
and America made great again.
Tompkinsville on Staten Island’ll
become Short Hills, Grosse Point, Scarsdale,
or even Lake Success, right near me,
where the cop who pulls you over
doesn’t know from loosies
what a lustrous word for a dark occupation,
a guy trying to make a buck on the street.

But just the same the cop might be thinking,
I’d like to strangle this guy,
as he writes you up for driving distracted
by that cracked windshield
you haven’t found the time or money to repair.
But he’s friendly enough
for all his formality
about rights and recourse.
See you in court, he says,
sneering in your rearview mirror
as he waves you on.
We’ll make America great again, alright,
Just be sure you’re white and bring plenty of cash.
We don’t take credit cards or checks.

Editor’s Note from Frontline: The 1980s-era theory known as “Broken Windows” . . . argues that maintaining order by policing low-level offenses can prevent more serious crimes. But in cities where Broken Windows has taken root, there’s little evidence that it’s worked as intended. The theory has instead resulted in what critics say is aggressive over-policing of minority communities, which often creates more problems than it solves. Such practices can strain criminal justice systems, burden impoverished people with fines for minor offenses, and fracture the relationship between police and minorities. It can also lead to tragedy: In New York in 2014, Eric Garner died from a police chokehold after officers approached him for selling loose cigarettes on a street corner.

Alan Walowitz has been published various places on the web and off.  His work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017 and 2018 and he is a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry.  His chapbook Exactly Like Love is available from Osedax Press, and his full-length book The Story of the Milkman and Other Poems is available from Truth Serum Press.