RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Jan. 20, 2016

Randolph Holder, After His Death

Arthur Russell

After he was shot in the face,
Police Officer Randolph Holder
fell to the ground and died.
His fellow officers shot, pursued
and caught the man who killed him,

Peanut, who had pitched the gun
into the East River, where two men
fishing from the promenade
saw the splash and showed the spot to cops

who called the divers who arrived by boat and helicopter
from Lower Manhattan and Floyd Bennet Field
where they wait, on call, to respond to emergencies in minutes.

For five days and nights, in teams of two and four,
they groped along the silty river bed by inches in darkness,
feeling their way along a rope on the bottom,
with bubbles rising up to the surface, to find the missing gun.

Harlem River tides are so strong divers can work
only three 90-minute slack periods each day.
“Definitely, we want to get this firearm,”
said a 13-year member of the police scuba team.
“This was a firearm that killed a police officer.”
He nodded towards the divers waiting in the police boat.

Six Daily News reporters and two New York Times
followed the search until, at 3 a.m. on the Saturday
after the shooting, John Mortimer
fished the gun from the river.
“Hey, I got it here,” he said.

Next day, police closed the FDR Drive,
and scores of officers in white hazmat suits
went step-by-step for forty blocks
along the closed highway, searching
for the actual pebble of lead,
the slug that had killed their comrade.

Thousands of men and women in blue
braved the dowsing cold outside the cathedral
in Jamaica, Queens to pay their respects.
NYPD officers as well as those from Suffolk,
Nassau and departments across the country
consoled one another. And there were bagpipers.

Pallbearers in dress blues carried the coffin
draped in the green, white and blue flag of the department
into the cathedral where flowers replaced the flag.
Floral arrangements rested on the altar
and along the sides of the cavernous chapel.
One grouping, shaped like angels wings,
had a sign that said “Blue Lives Matter.”

The Commissioner promoted Holder,
posthumously, to the rank of Detective.
The Mayor, Holder’s fiancé, his stepmother and his father spoke.
Hundreds of reporters and news trucks and camera men
under plastic tarps and umbrellas wrote and recorded
and replayed every word and sentiment.

Six cops flew with the body to Guyana,
and carried the coffin to a hearse at the airport,
and a Guyanese military band played the Last Post,
and family members stood on the tarmac.
The Daily News was there. The Guyana Police Force Band
played The Star Spangled Banner.

The New York Times sent a reporter
to investigate the cemetery named Le Repentir
in the Lodge community of Georgetown, Guyana
where they would bury him,
to talk with a childhood friend,
and the owner of a thrift shop
where he bought chocolates as a boy,
and reported how the Georgetown authorities,
to the moment he arrived, had been cutting down
clumps of vegetation, cleaning trenches,
and opening a path to the tomb they had prepared
to hold him.

Meanwhile, in New York, The Daily News
referred to the bail hearing for Peanut as “redundant”
when they really meant it was a mere formality
in a city that needed to bolster its respect for the dead cop
with hatred for the suspect and disdain
for the system that had returned him
to the streets after prior arrests.

They laid Randolph Holder in the ground.
They left flowers and candles.
They walked away from his grave,
returning to their original premises,
secure in the belief that
Detective Randolph Holder’s life mattered.

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