ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online)
Featuring the works of Peter Oâ€™Neill, Wylkys Weinhardt, Michael McAloran, Matthew Duggan, Lana Bella, Helen Harrison, Peter Nolan, Marie Lecrivain, Darren Demaree , Sue Hewitt and Emily Donoho Hard copies can be purchased from our website.
Issue No 36 September 2015
A New Ulster On the Wall Website
Editor: Amos Greig Editor: Arizahn Editor: Adam Rudden Contents
Peter Oâ€™Neill & Wylkys Weinhardt; 1.
The Schisms of Fate Part one
The Schisms of Fate Part two The Vitruvian Man
Lana Bella; 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
All My Ideas are Painted Red Separation Waiting A Splintering Winter Concievably it is You and Me in the Bed
Peter Nolan; 1. Three Poems 2. Getting Old Neil Ellman; 1. 2. 3.
Radical Openness Dane The Orange Unpronouncanle Freedom
M J Duggan; 1. Ice Cream Utopianism 2. Winnaitch 3. The Roar 4. The Rising 5. The Missing Quarter - Jacks Marie Lecrivain; 1. Unfinished 2. Initiation 3. Channelling Ariadne Monday Through Friday Michael Mc Aloran; 1. 4 Poems Darren Demaree; 1. 3 poems
Helen Harrison; 1. 2. 3.
Wet Days Black Currents I Can Taste The Flavour of Ripening
On The Wall Message from the Alleycats
Round the Back Sue Hewitt; 1. 2.
Manuscripts, art work and letters to be sent to: Submissions Editor A New Ulster 23 High Street, Ballyhalbert BT22 1BL Alternatively e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org See page 50 for further details and guidelines regarding submissions. Hard copy distribution is available c/o Lapwing Publications, 1 Ballysillan Drive, Belfast BT14 8HQ Digital distribution is via links on our website: https://sites.google.com/site/anewulster/ Published in Baskerville Oldface & Times New Roman Produced in Belfast & Ballyhalbert, Northern Ireland. All rights reserved The artists have reserved their right under Section 77 Of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 To be identified as the authors of their work. ISSN 2053-6119 (Print) ISSN 2053-6127 (Online) Cover Image â€œGuardianâ€? by Amos Greig
“No man can tell what the future may bring forth, and small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.” Demosthenes. Editorial The 36th issue of A New Ulster represents a milestone back in September 2012 I had an idea and in many was the quote by Demosthenes sums up the resultant venture. A New Ulster is read world wide and submissions are not just limited to this island. We had hoped to live up to the description of a literary and arts magazine and this issue fulfils that ambition. We have interviews with two authors Sue Hewitt and Emily Donoho their writing styles and genres are very different and both books are worth reading. I’m hoping that this will be a regular addition to the journal. Of course A New Ulster wouldn’t be what it is without the poets and artists who submit their work each month and this issue features some very strong material as well as some first time writers we also have some established names for you. We have transversions and traditional poetry formats for you to explore I am just a gatekeeper and today the door is open once more. Enough pre-amble! Onto the creativity! Amos Greig
Biographical Note: Peter Oâ€™Neill & Wylkys Weinhardt
Wylkys Weinhardt currently lectures on cinematography in BraZil. He first met Peter O' Neill in Dublin while polishing up his English. As an exercise in writing skills they both decided to work on translating the poems of Augusto Dos Anjos. Peter O' Neill is the author of four critically acclaimed collections of poetry. His most recent, The Enemy, Transversions from Charles Baudelaire, was just recently published by Lapwing in Belfast.
The Schisms of Fate - part 1 After Augusto Dos Anjos ( 1884- 1914) Translated by Wylkys Weindhardt and Peter Oâ€™ Neill
Recife, Buarque de Macedo Bridge. Heading out to Agraâ€™s home, Haunted by my own thin shadow, Thinking about fate, and I was scared!
In the austere high dome, the chemi-luminesence Of the stars illuminating... the paving Stones, and hard tarmac, dark and glassy, Mirroring also the glossiness of a bald skull. I remember it all so clearly. The bridge was long, And my great shadow engulfed it, Like the outline of a rhinoceros Extending throughout the entirety of my own life. The night impregnated with the animal addiction to eggs. From out of the coal of the enormous darkness Exhaled a damned and sickening wind, Over the facade of the buildings. Like a horde of fierce and ravenous dogs, Crossing a desert station, Howling within me, mouths agape, Containing the whole frightened pack of instinct. It was as if the soul of the city, Deeply lubric and rioting, Was showing off its flesh like a loose beast, Roaring out its bestiality.
And deepening the obscure thoughts, I saw then, under the golden reflections of the light, The genesical work of sex, Spawning, that night, the future men! Freed from scalpels and microscopes, They danced, parodying cynical stories, 7
Billions of apollonian centrosomes In the promiscuous vitellus chamber. But also, irritating my oracular globes, Glorifying and shouting with disgusting colours, Thin foetuses in the placenta, Reaching out to me with primitive hands! They showed me the unknowable priori, Of this fatal egalitarianism, Which made my family originate From that atrocious factory. The stronger atmospheric winds whispered To me, and in the enlightened surface of the Cross, I believed to spot the grim chandelier Which I hoped would illuminate my own death. No one understood my cry, Particularly God! Through the gaps in my clothes, The angry winds pierced me with arrows, And dry applications of ice. The astronomical worldâ€™s revenge Delivered up to the Earth extra-ordinary knives, Placed in hard shellac, Covering my anatomical elements.
Ah! God was punishing me for sure! Everywhere, like a confessed defendant, There was a Judge busy reading my trial papers, And a special gallows awaited me! But the wind ceased momentarily. But then, the great Orcâ€™s ignis sapiens Choked me painfully in the chest, With a core of ember-like substances. It is likely that I will go blind one day, In the heat of this lethal and torrid Zone. Blood red is the colour which impresses me, And the one which haunts me most in this world! This chromatic obsession slaughters me. Not knowing why it should always invade my mind; 8
The lacerated stomach of a child, Strung out with the crimson guts. I wished for anything provisory To come into my cerebral cave. And, unto this end, I cut and trimmed The ominous faculties of my memory. In the barometric ascension of calm, I knew both anxiety and counterfeit. A whole tubercular population Coughed hopelessly in my soul. And the spit, which this ancient cough Gagged, like an acid residue, Was not singular, but rather Was mined by perhaps earlier heretics! No! It was not my spit, that is for sure. It was more the putrid crass expectoration From the pulmonary bronchus, of a race Who had violated all of Natureâ€™s Laws! Before, it was an ubiquitous cough, weird Like the noise of some round pebble, Thrown in the climatic clap of thunder, At the side of a mountain! And the saliva of the unfortunates Blistered in my mouth, so much, That I, in order not to spit everywhere, Swallowed, little by little, the haemoptysis. In the altitude of my hallucinogenic schisms, The liquid microcosm of the drop Took on the abundance of a badly spliced artery, Blown apart by aneurisms. And so, I reached the climax of sorrow! Twice, three... four, five, six... and seven times I stabbed myself with a switchblade, And the haemoglobin came to me with water. Spit, dripping onto my lips like water, Shaped into a bulbous rosary, And was blessed by all of the glands 9
Which produced the spittle. To gob from one abyss to another, Throwing into the Sky the smoke from a cigarette, But there is more philosophy in this one gob Then there is in all of Christian morality! Because, if upon the oval orb which my feet touch, I did not leave my executionerâ€™s spit, I would never have expressed the bitterest gag; That all of the dim fuckwits which this world had inflicted upon me.
The Schisms of Fate – Part II After Augusto Dos Anjos ( 1884- 1914) Translated by Wylks Weindardt & Peter O’ Neill
It was in the horror of this festering night That I discovered, perhaps even better than Leonardo, With all of the visual prowess of the lynx, The lack of unity in all matter. The disarticulated skeletons, Free from the bitter stink of dead meat, Spinned round on their bent white tibias, In a dance of broken numbers. Every evil deity: From Shiva and Ahriman, to every assorted Hobgoblin, Whose din imitates the noise of gobs, Slapped the walls of countless churches. In this the hour of sublime monologues, In the company of all of the thieves of the night, Looking for a tavern to flog em’ As they go through the darkness contemplating crime. The festering acts were perpetrated, And the moon, the colour of jaundice, Illuminated everything, laughing shamelessly At the bloodied shirts of incest. No one was there, for sure, to spy on me, But a lantern, I recall, placed in front of my face, Like a suggested eye, put there with but one purpose; To hypnotise me!
The Vitruvian Man For Brendan McCormack (Peter Oâ€™Neill) The morning after our chat, I went out To the open air, crunching along the stone beaches of Sker, mind-splintered by the overkill of sensory perception:
The burning desert- like heat of the sun, that white dwarf with its billion implosions, as radioactive as my heartit still spurting its Baudelairean glue...
Till I made for the smoother sand, tramping along with all the dogs of the land, coming to a tarmac road
where, as if placed there, I knelt to pick up a coin on which was inscribed Da Vinci's drawing; Its mark of Cain unsettles me still
Biographical Note: Lana Bella Lana Bella has a diverse work of poetry and fiction anthologized, published and forthcoming with over ninety journals, including a chapbook with Crisis Chronicles Press (2015), Aurorean Poetry, Chiron Review, Contrary Magazine, QLSR (Singapore), elsewhere, and Featured Artist with Quail Bell Magazine, among others.
Lana lives bi-continental, in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is the wife of a novelist, and a mom of two frolicsome imps.
ALL MY IDEAS ARE PAINTED RED (Lana Bella) all my ideas are painted red, they are too big to fit in my tiny head, the tiny head which sits atop an obese body like an inverted lollipop-so I scarf the extra bits down with a splash of lemon juice and salt, I laugh, of all things I laugh when the tail end of my red ideas hangs from my mouth dripping blood poetry, still I work my teeth into its secret places run the tip of my tongue beneath the underbelly then with a swift flick, bring it home a spattering of bitter, a whole lot of crunch-this is the moment when I see again the piecing that can be patched whole back to symmetryif only in haste, I did not tear through the thousand veins and arteries for doing so, now my ideas are neither useful, nor red
SEPARATION (Lana Bella) A mistake, a false step takes us elsewhere. Now, we dress separately, keeping distance a close companion-your absinthe eyes startle each time my dress, which is nothing more than flesh, brushes you by passing on the staircase. Have a nice day, I say, your head nods in a new absent way-I pour the whole of our lives over the landing: bones, flesh, darkness and light, grazing your neck and tousled hair as you step down then out into the sunlight, gone. On this morning, I throw out my voice and scream, piercing pitch scurrying the empty foyer breaths break apart in their string of puffs. This remains constant as a moment of absolution-I am a prayer devoid of its name or power, for I never dreamt we would be a river cleft in two, voiceless as we move sideways in splinters and traces.
WAITING (Lana Bella) A woman was alone with the piano. Her fingers collapsed onto black and white skeleton keys, emptying out what remained of the day. The notes drifted apart, some traveled across the flick of her hand, others dove down where the wetness of winter slept. It was an early evening for hot bath and bourbon on the rocks. Her dead husband's music sheets, light and illegible as they drifted slowly toward the sliver of space above the bubbles, inked stems and tails reeled in their fall on her hard knee-caps poking through the effervescent water. Paper skin clung to these knobby organs like fresh snow in November. This pocked landscape held her in a catatonic order, any memory was accidental, and bitterness laughed with an audience of one. So there she was, something nearing certifiably mad, living in a constant fear when she would wake from long stretch of dark, each breath and step she took felt pitiless as if she was being led by the hand of the blind, while the outside world burned red.
A SPLINTERING WINTER (Lana Bella) do you watch for acorns fall from the pines, spilling down a young squirrel's back do you startle with wet eyes as snowflakes leap into elegance, wearing winter's pervasive scent do you tip your hat at an old man by the frozen lake, mulls over if ice does a winter form do you feel your human tongue tastes whisper in dark sky's kiss, its lips the electric chair
CONCEIVABLY IT IS YOU AND ME IN THE BED (Lana Bella) Conceivably it is you and me in the bed, and at last, we are alone, the two of us, with of course, the sheets and roadside picked dandelions. I will touch you like a circling bird over earth, just a hair's breadth away that I could delicately muse into a poem. Until you turn, eyes petting this cadence so close, of spare wisps made almost invisible by our quiet struggle to breathe. Fingers like small stems, you lift your long brown hair and sweep the tips to my cheek, downward to the patch of skin holding shoots of darkness. I could not have known then or realized, how without words, as we watch our new dance floats skyward, stirring flesh and bone into paired winged things that we couldn't have done alone.
Biographical Note: Peter Nolan
Peter Nolan aged but never matured in Laytown, Dublin and Drogheda. He is Lukeâ€™s Dad. He is considered sound and taught his son to play guitar. He has travelled and will do so again.
Three poems by Peter Nolan Brutal Absences I wake curled in pain From your brutal absences Crushing me in sleep
Our Kiss Our lips barely part Longing holding still for more Our eyes closed in peace
Love & Romance Love is the river Romance the light reflecting Back from it to you
Getting Old (Peter Nolan)
The morning of his ninety-ninth birthday he woke remembering that the best lover he had ever been with had died eight years ago. The last time they had made love she was in her thirties, he more than a decade older. He closed his eyes, slowly turned onto his side, recalling their mysterious chemistry that shackled them together forever in a shared, silent disappointment in all forthcoming lovers. The miracle of their love making was never to be repeated, no matter how much they loved those who followed. He dreamed of her reaching for him when she awoke. Delicate and demanding, her finger tips, her caresses and her kisses, his responses and their blinding passion. In his dream he was sitting on a sofa, watching her as she stepped naked into a red brick fireplace, the flames leaping but not burning her. She was talking to him, her skin blackening as if crude oil were being massaged into her by the heat and the flames. She smiled at him, her eyes filled with that familiar pleasure. Then, she stood up to her full height, completely shining naked black now, and black wings sprouted from her back, each as long as she was tall. The wings burst through the brick fireplace, exploding debris into the room. In his dream she would be wherever he went and they would couple frantically and deliciously. He awoke smelling her skin, hearing her whispers and feeling her lips upon him. But she was long gone. He recalled their last time together. He had been drinking then. Each morning he would walk to The Beach Inn. Young Andy was the barman that summer. Nice enough lad. Could pull a reasonable pint and was always polite even when guiding him out at closing time. Each morning, that summer Andy would open up the doors on time and welcome him in. “Good Morning Pedro!” His name was not Pedro but that was what they called him. He had no idea why. His parents named him James but he did not like to remember them. Now, he supposed, he will be mourned as Pedro after he died. Good enough he thought. Each morning he’d sit at the far end of the bar, his back to the door, sipping his pint. Andy would give him the remote for the TV and he could flick through the channels avoiding sport, news and interviews. He loved the cartoons best. Scooby Doo, Yogi Bear, Wacky Races. All on for the kids during the summer holidays. He loved these hours best of all. The sun shining in through the yellow window behind him; the bar golden and quiet. The promise of solace in his first pint. After lunch he’d add the glass of whiskey to his remaining orders. “I heard last night went well, Andy. You had a close one?” “Jesus Pedro it was frightening.” “What happened?”
During the summer, visitors from Northern Ireland arrived to escape The Marching Season. They would take over the small town; packing caravan parks and rented cottages. It was a summer migration to the peaceful South. But it was always an uneasy time, prone to incendiary brawls. The previous evening Andy was working under the supervision of Cara and her sister Angela. The two women taught him how to pour a proper pint, how to tap a keg, how to tot up a bill quickly and how to use the till. That night they watched over him as they all worked the large, packed function room. A band was playing rebel songs and later on a few of the visitors became brave enough to sing on the stage. Their songs were fiercely republican, naming the recently deceased and the audience sang along. That week the bar owner had a friend visiting from England. He was a giant of a man who had spent that day being served scotch by Andy. All that evening he’d sat at the bar with his back to the band. Then, as another singer belted out another war-cry, he stood up from his stool and walked across the dance floor to the stage. Both men were wrecked with alcohol, their bodies blubbery and uncoordinated. The singer leaned down to better hear what he thought was another request for rebel song. Andy saw the singer leap upon the giant, punching him in the head full force. The singer stood over the giant, raising his arms in triumphal acceptance the applause from the crowd. Then the giant got up, timing his punch perfectly as the singer turned. Normally fights are short-lived but the incensed crowd erupted into a melee. Cara was brave and capable. Striding into the middle of the fight she grabbed onto her boss’s friend. Dragged him clear she told him she’d sort him out later, but for now he was to fuck off upstairs to safety. She ordered the band to start playing The 'Mountains of Mourne'. She pulled the singer close to shout into his ear. He nodded his head and got back on stage to sing. She settled everyone down. There were no bouncers. Cara did it all herself as Angela and Andy, following her orders, kept on serving behind the bar. “We thought it was all settled, Pedro. Then the National Anthem is played. Your man from England arrives back in and pole-axes the singer with a punch. The whole place erupted again and we kept serving.” “Jaysus.” “Then I felt a breeze go by my cheek, whizz! … and the bar mirror behind me smashes into pieces.” “What?” “Someone threw one of these at me.” Andy picked up a stubby spirit glass. “Fucking thing nearly took my head off. It smashed the mirror and it still lived to tell the tale. Tough little fuckers these glasses.” “You were all lucky.” “Who ya tellin’? They were shouting over to us ‘Have you no respect? The Anthem is playing!’ Real fucking patriots.” “Well…” “What else could we do? There’d been one riot already. We didn’t want to give them another excuse by shutting the bar.” 22
“It is always tough this time of year. Pour me another pint.” And then she arrived. It had been years since he had seen her but she looked as good as she ever did. Her tall, voluminously feminine body still a little awkward like a foal who has just found her legs. She was always a little nervous at first. But she was brave too. She was the one who came looking for him. “Hello James.” He felt her touch his shoulders and her hand move down his back as he turned to see her standing before him. “Jesus…Veronica.” He hugged her, suddenly conscious of his beer scented breath. It was still before lunchtime. He felt her body rest for a moment on his and her lips on his cheek. She pulled away to look at him, both her hands now resting on his shoulders. “What have you been doing to yourself, James? You look like shit.” Veronica rarely thought before she spoke. He smiled at her, knowing that her thoughtlessness came from a nervous, unpractised place. She looked wonderful. She was wearing her hair up which he liked. He loved to untie it, unleashing it as they made love. Her teeth were perfect, her breasts, as ever, were splendid. They would be cossetted, he knew, in an expensive, elaborate bra that would match her panties. He had loved to undress her, touching her matchlessly soft skin. Her finger nails burnished with a red lacquer that matched her lipstick. She sat on a stool beside him, put her hand to his knee and called to Andy. “Bar-keep! Bring me a pint of Heineken and whatever James wants.” “James?” Andy was confused but did as he was asked and brought them their drinks. “Do you know how much I love this man?” She asked. “Em ...” “We met when we were children and I have always loved him. He is the love of my life. And I’ve come back to get him.” He sipped at his beer, smiling at Andy’s reaction. The kid never expected this. This gorgeous woman in love with the town drunk. He remembers the confusion on the boy’s face. Each time Andy brought them a drink Veronica would flirt. “James you haven’t changed a bit. You’re still handsome. Don’t you agree, Andy?” Andy smiled, nodding his agreement as he removed their empty glasses. Veronica kept talking about how they should have been together, about their destiny. She drank as quickly as he did. Then, she stopped talking, stood up, brushed down her dress and put her hands on her waist before leaning herself against him, then she reached her arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips. Her kisses had always transfixed him and he felt himself returning her passion with his own, long dormant lust. Suddenly, she pulled back. “Andy! Come here love!” “More drinks?” Andy asked when he came over. 23
“No. No drinks. Andy, do you know a place where we can make love?” Veronica saw the look of surprise on Andy’s face. “Not you and me! You’re cute but not that cute. You fool. Me and my James here. We want to make love now and need a place. Can you recommend one?” Andy was a good kid and he told them that there were rooms at the back. For some reason the inn had not been opened that summer and the rooms were musty but they were clean. He could show them to a room and no one would know. He was a good kid. “That sounds lovely! Lead on. Come along James.” Andy went to get the key from behind the bar and then led them up the stairs to the empty, silent rooms above. Veronica walked with her arm draped over his shoulder and he had rarely felt as happy. Andy opened a door for them and in the room was a large bed under a skylight. The room was bright and clean. “Thanks Andy.” She said and pushed him out of the room, handing him a fiver before closing the door. He watched her pull over the curtains to darken the room. He burped and felt embarrassed. He rubbed his upper lip and remembered they had left their drinks at the bar. He watched her as she walked towards him. “It has been a long time.” “Yes … I” “Shut up.” She kissed him on his lips and he responded to her. He closed his eyes, forgetting age and alcohol. He felt his desire relight and he surrendered to her. As they kissed, he opened one eye to see her angelic face, lost in their kisses. He felt her breath quicken and they held each other. “Come back with me, James. I’ll look after you.” “Where?” “England. You live with me and I’ll look after you. There’s a lovely pub just down the road from me.” “Pub?” “Yes. Oh James! We can drink every day and enjoy our lives. Cigarette?” He took the cigarette, lit it and took a deep after-sex drag. “I miss you Veronica.” “I miss you too. I was mad about you. Remember?” “Yes.” “Will you come with me?” “No.” “But …” “No.” They spent the rest of day in the room. Making love, talking, smoking. When they were hungry they showered, dressed and went out to eat. Veronica ordered their meal. “Red or White?” She asks. “Water for me please.” “What? OK, bring me a bottle of the house red and water for this wimp.” 24
The next day James rang Alcoholics Anonymous, taking his first step into a new life. That was more than fifty years ago. He wept when he heard of her death in London and continued going to his meetings, surviving his grief for the years left to him. Then one morning he died, dreaming of her, sighing her name with his last breath.
Biographical Note: Neil Ellman
Neil Ellman, a poet from New Jersey, has published more than 1,100 poems in print and online journals, anthologies and chapbooks throughout the world. He has been honored twice as a nominee for the Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Net.
Radical Openness (Stanley Whitney, painting) (Neil Ellman)
How much more open can open be when it is as open as an open book ready for the eyes to read the secrets hidden in its leaves so green thereâ€™s nothing more to know than endless, open green so open it seems the sum of everything the universe revealed in the gospels of the grassâ€” not at all like white that hides the spectrum in its robes.
Dance the Orange (Stanley Whitney, painting) (Neil Ellman)
Dance the orange if you can to make an orange out of sin take it in your arms and dance until you die with its sweetness on your lips for a moment in a blue-black world among the colors of your life where orange is the perfect fruit to dance as if it were a woman of the night.
Unpronounceable Freedom (Stanley Whitney, painting) (Neil Ellman)
Not even the assonance of green or the consonance of blue can be read as if it were a poem; not even the resonance of the liberty of free verse and its syllables painted red, yellow and grey can be intoned as if they were a prayer; not even freedom can be pronounced as if it had the certainty of an orange moon among the moons that circle around its prison in the sky.
Biographical Note: MJ Duggan Born Bristol 1971 Matt Duggan won the Erbacce prize for poetry 2015. His poems have appeared in many journals and magazines such as The Seventh Quarry, Ink, Sweat, and Tears, The New Ulster, Section 8, The Dawntreader, Roundyhouse, Poetry Quarterly, Illumen, Yellow Chair Review, Jawline Review, Carillon, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Vagabonds, Lunar Poetry Magazine, The Screech Owl, Message in a Bottle, OF/With, IANASP, The Stare’s Nest, The Cobalt Review, Sarasvati, Expound, Ex-Fic, Trysts of Fate. Matt created and hosts a spoken word evening at Hydra Bookshop in Bristol U.K called ‘An Evening of Spoken Indulgence’and is also the co- editor with Simon Leake of a political poetry magazine called ‘The Angry Manifesto’. Matt can sometimes be found scribbling poems on bar-matts in the dark shadows of some Bristol pub or wandering the Quantocks for the perfect view.
Ice Cream Utopianism (M J Duggan) We love all the ice cream round here! over indulging ourselves in the utopianism of mirrors; Where occasionally we look around the edges of our own reflections opening our eyes widely to see that behind each layer is a sugar coated illusion, We love all the ice cream round here! It makes us fat yet our visage is thin the truth is a reflected manipulation like those twisting mirrors on the seaside pier; We love all the ice cream round here.
Winnaitch (M J Duggan) Follow my eye said the young boy see where the cloud hangs like a floating noose, above spare dirty and cold waves that is where Rottnest Island stands! Hoarding bones of our elders where rich sun seekers now lay unknowingly on the foundations of unmarked graves. Bronze footsteps stood above our ghosts on straw beds a hessian fence broken with the dried flesh of quokka knots of wire with red clothe; Tanned and fresh tourists seeking rites of passage where our ancestors were imprisoned, Starved Hung Banished This is the island of spirit people Winnaitch â€“ The Forbidden Isle! Now close your eyes said the young boy as you may hear the manacles of my forefathers, No number sixteen on that island one is for executioner - six is for the noose. *Winnaitch â€“ Is Aboriginal for Forbidden
The Roar (M J Duggan) Only when the lathered like droplets of cuckoo spit have dried on the Rosemary bush will the voice dwindle inside of the bark, we will all roar brightly conversing with the flaws of a dead heart. When the ravens have left the square this suckled earth will feed on our epidermis when water turns to blood in the golden moats, pillars and colosseums will fall into the oceans we will all roar brightly with uncertainty and hope!
The Rising (M J Duggan) Crawl with the insects in the gutter stare death in the face through a glass live every moment and never engage the past; Always be the closure to loves atonements never ever be the last one to act! Make that stand - Never be bullied by Gods or Masters don’t be afraid of the cross or religions that control their monsters, forget those who choose to wear named masks like actors only appreciating people with false and money influenced praise! That knife that they repeatedly stabbed in your back has become BLUNT! Numbed of any effect those green words that they try and manipulate you; Yet the ground that you now walk on is no longer wet that knife they use is for their own weakness Their own failures that all they can do is busy themselves with everyone else; Yet, never caring to look through the eyes of their own witness! You can rise from these chains that have boxed you in those foolish ringlets will sink while you float like hardboard on the surface; Watching them fall slowly beneath your feet - while you RISE……
The Missing Quarter- Jacks (M J Duggan) On the edge of Corn street I stood as a child like Southey before me; Awaiting the clocks final tick Eyes like a tourist staring at the quarter jacks Transfixed! On the hour they moved In beetle red - luminous yellow, Marching towards the clock-face The seconds chime from golden hammers on Broad Street; delivering the sound of time. Today the Quarter Jacks are missing Lost in dust-bins of boxed antiquities Waiting on a slashed council budget to unclamp their rustic uniforms; With the stone pages etched in ancient cuneiform.
Biographical Note: Marie Lecrivain
Bio: Marie Lecrivain is the editor-publisher of poeticdiversity: the litzine of Los Angeles, a photographer, and writer-in-residence at her apartment. Her work has been published in A New Ulster, Nonbinary Review, The Los Angeles Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, and many others. She's the author of several volumes of poetry and fiction, including The Virtual Tablet of Irma Tre (copyright 2014 Edgar & Lenore's Publishing House), Philemon's Gambit: Sonnets and Photographs (forthcoming 2015 International Word Bank Press), and Grimm Conversations (forthcoming 2015 Sybaritic Press).
Unfinished... (Marie Lecrivain)
is an apt word to describe what grief does, the veneer of life stripped away in a rough unapologetic fashion, each of one us then laid out and exposed to the elements with no kind breeze or gentle rain to soothe our pain. The blood wells in the pores and then scabs into a crust too painful to pick at, its relief immense and necessary.
We live in these shells past their prime, and watch in horror as desiccated bits of armor fall away, a trail of memories and bewilderment left our wake.
We avoid truth in mirrors; the raised pink stripes on the surface of our brand new flesh tell the world a story we'd rather forget.
initiation (Marie Lecrivain) newton's third law. you've got to leave something behind. - interstellar where does it comes from, this dark and lonely child who clings to my breast as i navigate our way through this minefield called life? you say I know the answer, and to become who i'm destined to be, i must leave behind what i've nurtured, unclasp its small hands, set it upon the earth, and walk away with head held high and ears closed. you tell me nothing i don't already know. for the first time i see you for true; the resolve in your half-closed eyes, the steel in your smile, and a brace of ligature marks that encircle your throat.
Channeling Ariadne Monday Through Friday (Marie Lecrivain) This week starts off uncertain with many variables I hope to overcome. I borrow confidence from my less certain sisters. We band together to cheer each other on and play the numbers game of follow me through the labyrinth of Q & A, this room, full of audible muses who navigate the willing with a virtual pIece of string and the promise of salvation for 989 drachmas. Most will not pay, and instead, feign shock and disbelief. Their excuses hit the backs of our heads like stones, like lies. We abandon them before the last turn - not looking behind- not looking behind as they flee back into the dark as the sound of hooves overlays their panicked foot falls. And then there are those who pay- and pay gladly - their coins spill into our hands, heavy with gratitude, like when Midas touched my oldest sister's hand and the gold washed over her in one quick wave. And then, there are the handful who can't pay the preferred price but give what they can. In the end, like many of my sisters, I find my tally to be less than what I'd wished for, but I'm still ahead... by 99 drachmas... and lighter by one day less of labor. I call this week a victory, made sweeter by its narrow edge.
Biographical Note: Michael Mc Aloran Michael Mc Aloran was Belfast born, (1976). He is the author of a number of collections of poetry, prose poetry, poetic aphorisms and prose, most notably 'Attributes', (Desperanto, NY, 2011), 'The Non Herein' & ‘Of Dead Silences’ (Lapwing Publications, 2011/ 2013), 'All Stepped/ Undone', ‘Of the Nothing Of’, 'The Zero Eye', 'The Bled Sun', 'In Damage Seasons',(Oneiros Books (U.K)--2013/ 14); 'Code #4 Texts' a collaboration with the Dutch poet, Aad de Gids, was also published in 2014 by Oneiros. He was also the editor/ creator of Bone Orchard Poetry, & edited for Oneiros Books (U.K 2013/ 2014). A further collection, 'Un-Sight/ Un-Sound (delirium X.), was published by gnOme books (U.S), and 'In Arena Night' is forthcoming from Lapwing Publications. 'EchoNone' was also recently released by Oneiros Books, and a further project, 'Of Dissipating Traces', is also forthcoming...
# …silence yes/ silenced yes/ as if to ever having done with it/ stripped solace no/ vital lapse in all depth of becoming-un/ as if because it were unto/ ash unto/ no/ pure as never was/ ever was/ given to yet it cannot/ asks of dust what climb or other than / dry reach in catascopic/ hence shadow never vital/ all traces then forgotten/ yet given to un-forgot/ blind edge laughter/ afar/ no/ clamours afar/ yet nothing to it/ in banquet of nothing no not a/ hence shadow’s dissolve in bit night balm/ well-spoken silenced/ of ghost-limbed rapture no/ call cards as if to/ dissolve yet surface of what to it/ spit in eye of eye of it/ no/ traipse till yet un-afar a-light unlit light of silhouette dark what dark/ yet for as if to/ not a sense of all’s retrace/ of fading nullity/ ever only of it/ spliced no not ever…
# â€Śfurther echo further no/ as if to say that no/ non further yes/ silenced in stripped silence of/ rapture suffocate in which a-dream/ not a/ vibrates yes yet lack of sounding all colours clear/ waste upon waste/ useless forage/ nothing that ever was/ ever was or if/ what will in-speak derivative of what or else/ blood can only ever be/ what can be/ unspoken detritus desire demarcate/ dim light of eyes all dredged/ speaks yes or no no answer collapse of/ fallen flourish/ being in/ silence in/ yet not a trace there is yet / silenced/ two three what can be/ opens up in head of time spent forgotten/ fade of five steps/ back or forth no matter if/ dries eyes with waxen what bodily volatile/ reduction of all/ bind bite what what/ time rotting within skull of gild/ meat locked to/ breath silencing all whileâ€Ś
# â€Śof un-vital if or other than/ spurious collapsed/ head vast/ not a/ bleeds into/ collapse unto/ dagger eyelid/ ever if/ strips skin reclamation no/ throng in membrane silenced yet/ broke stone broken what/ into/ absence of dark absent all fruition/ in scum red warp excise spat out/ collapse in weightless/ silenced as if to/ breaks lest what forage colours absent if/ colours absent vapour trail silent rampage/ spit realm close of palm/ out-speak no given origin/ piss reek/ fallen unto fallen nor or then/ it is light absence of all light/ stones crushed to dusts/ empty tabulets/ nothing of/ wastage of bone circus shattered solace grinds upon bitten of absent voice/ not a/ (for all time)/ here or there a little less or more what matter/ sucks silent through bared teeth bare/ never having dreamt/ in flux capacityâ€Ś
# …bled X. outro of desire/ naught of which/ returns to which from out of step/ cannot/ or perhaps vague un-sound resounding ever silence out from origin/ echo echo film/ utters what/ claimed lest onset flow in unbecoming/ vault yes or no in silent peak/ gallowing/ in-trace devour/ lung if/ exhales into naught what spurious/ sinew absorb of trace absorb/ in wave upon want and of it desirious circumference/ what then in now/ what of/ eye of/ no not of/ emptily foreign dreams/ constructs/ shears pulse of unspoken/ snare deep/ burrowed still/ it is/ surpassed in lack through bitten wave of collapse/ (as if to say)/ what sung ill-sound/ slashed out/ claiming for yes or no’s devour of speech/ rock-rhythm/ forth backwards in denuded nightscape/ exhales deep/ dead dead what matter of it…
# â€Śwrench bone absentee/ a-breathe of stone till dreamt what solace of/ fragrant no/ unclarify/ silence trace what done/ in/ forgotten ever from beseech tone deafened/ etches into nothing that ever was/ blind-sighted cavalcade/ stun laughter breakage subtle tide/ what realm then/ silenced tones/ irredeemable collapse/ from out of which all said of buried traces/ un-calm of winds/ cadaver cheer of hungered night/ before which breath all emptied from/ from out of/ dredge un-spy/ all space measured out in not a/ eradicated speech come to fore in the reek of un-said once was/ dead head buried banquet of dressage/ skin/ silently there out where somewhere else to follow/ steadies hand/ an open wound absently weeps lack of sound/ collapse a subtle horizon/ as if it/ traceless sentence yes/ no other markâ€Ś
# â€Śoutward flows/ no nothing flows/ it is of a/ breakage point of a/ yet not a/ onward it says/ not a bloody chance/ chance derailing in tissue foreign blessed by/ in roomscape of one thousand hours/ nectar skull in-dreaming/ silence corrodes all sense devoured/ nocturne solace salve yet no of a/ lets go of it/ watches it fade into distancia/ curdles of breath in-dense capacity what dream to construct/ (echoing screams from some dark distance)/ it breath no what/ yet brought to kneel upon reeking earth/ blood shed an absentee knowledge/ here absent then another snuffed out/ all while what lung/ it is/ was/ silently fingers grip for nothing more/ cleft dense blood absent rhythm/ in a stun of/ fades in or out as if to/ silenced phrases/ empty words of longing breath beyond/ a strap mark of shadow(ing)â€Ś
Biographical Note: Darren Demaree Darrenâ€™s poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including the South Dakota Review, Meridian, The Louisville Review, Diagram, and the Colorado Review. He is the author of "As We Refer To Our Bodies" (2013, 8th House), "Temporary Champions" (2014, Main Street Rag), "The Pony Governor" (2015, After the Pause Press), and "Not For Art Nor Prayer" (2015, 8th House). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology. Darren currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.
NUDE MALE WITH ECHO #73 (Darren Demaree) Bobble the root of my innuendo & if you can keep it up, this wonâ€™t take long. I only want you to remember how I described what happened, not that it happened in a reality too stark to allow such words. You laughed twice when I only needed you to laugh once.
NUDE MALE WITH ECHO #74 (Darren Demaree)
If I toss the bay leaves in the air & they fall slowly will that take the absurdity of my body & contextualize it with the intended gravity Every leaf falls & every body is revealed. Can you say that with me?
NUDE MALE WITH ECHO #75 (Darren Demaree)
Shove the apple into my mouth. Make your coping range past tenderness & from the other side your metaphors might just hold passion as a concept you first intended when you realized that there never were any layers between us & I needed you to see things literally for once.
Biographical Note: Helen Harrison Helen Harrison is originally from the Wirral and living in Ireland for twenty five years. Her poems have been published in: A New Ulster, North West Words and The Bray Journal. Her first collection of poetry â€˜The Last Fireâ€™ was published during 2015 by Lapwing. Some of her poetry can be found at: poetry4on.blogspot.com
WET DAYS (HELEN HARRISON)
It was Monday Everyone at school or not yet born. I remember every square in the pavement. Wet days remind me of mum wearing a sad face, Walking towards the village determined To fill shopping bags with the beginnings Of busy meals for milling children. It was the only time I felt close. Sometimes sheâ€™d say something, Tell me who lived in which house And how nice they kept their gardens. In days when it rained Our closeness dissolved - in stooped shoulders, The anticipated heavy bags, against the rain. When the sun kinder, other women Stopped to chat; I didnâ€™t like that, They came into our space, Mine, mums and cracked pavements. She measured her marriage against other couples Who passed in cars, or walked side by side 52
Chatting, smiling, swinging shopping bags in unison. Too proud to carry shopping or feelings My dad; being a farmer Never looked inside the heart. On rainy days he was in the pub Until closing-time. At home, he opted for sleep and Peaceful isolated dreams. Mum pulled the scarf around her head, The wind flapped her mackintosh, Her slim legs moved purposely through life.
BLACKCURRENTS (Helen Harrison)
Bottled and preserved Those cold summer offerings For warmth in winter....
I CAN TASTE THE FLAVOUR OF RIPENING (HELEN HARRISON) Crisp coolness captures My senses; touches the tip Of my nose I look to the vegetable plot, it’s Waiting a whisper of warmth A last caress. Root crops are safe to remain, Clay wrapped around their roots Underground recipes. I think of ripening rose-hips Early elderberries, tonics, To be made. I hear the blackbird among The thickening blackberry Bulging bushes, Anticipating ambush; it’s Still August; but I feel the Changes coming.... Spirit warmed by promise, Colours to charm berries, and Apples from trees, before Winter’s tip pierces like holly And the air becomes full of pine And peat-smoked scents.
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Next month will see the anniversary issue be released. Well, that’s just about it from us for this edition everyone. Thanks again to all of the artists who submitted their work to be presented “On the Wall”. As ever, if you didn’t make it into this edition, don’t despair! Chances are that your submission arrived just too late to be included this time. Check out future editions of “A New Ulster” to see your work showcased “On the Wall”.
Biography: Sue Hewitt
Sue Hewitt was born in Kent in 1957. She has lived happily with her family in the Scottish Borders for the past twenty-five years, and is a member of Kelso Writersâ€™ Club. Outside of writing, Sue works as housekeeper and gardener to the artist Susan Ryder. The Cunning Woman's Cup is her first novel: having written sporadically as a pastime since childhood.
Organic Writing – An Interview with Sue Hewitt This issue, Arizahn and the alley cats have been losing themselves in the mists of time, with author Sue Hewitt. Her debut novel, The Cunning Woman’s Cup is available for purchase via Amazon – check for the link in the author’s bio, then go and dig up a copy today!
ANU: Authors often point to a key moment or person in their life that got them hooked on reading and writing. What incident or person do you feel has been your inspiration? SH: My love for books began at an early age; nurtured by my mother. My earliest book related memories are of weekly trips with Mum, and later with my little brother in tow, to the library in Deal, on the Kentish coast. The children’s section was separate from the adults’: under a brick arch and along a passage to a low ceilinged room in the back of the old building. I cannot recall any individual books, except perhaps The Cat in the Hat, but Mum made very sure that I, and later my brother, were both reading fluently before we started school. She started to teach us when we were very young, and during primary education years, my Aunt Audrey always gave me books for Christmas and birthdays - Heidi, What Katy Did: endless children’s classics. The first time I really fell in love with a story was the day I discovered The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in the school library aged eleven. Immediately I read The Magician’s Nephew, and then the rest of the series: I’d been hooked! Neither my mother nor my aunt had the benefit of much in the way of education. Mum was determined that being female was no reason not to get at least some academic education. She herself had left school aged only thirteen or fourteen. There had been more emphasis on cookery, needlework and childcare than upon literature at her secondary school, so she was not able to point me in the direction of any particular books. Instead, I was encouraged to choose and read anything and everything. Although I did write as a child (I have a vague memory of writing a poem about the sea), I have no outstanding memories of individual teachers who may or may not have encouraged me. Writing - was not something “a girl from my background” would, 60
could or should ever do – at least that was the overwhelming lesson I do remember learning. When I passed the Eleven Plus, and was offered a scholarship place at the local grammar school, it was muttered (not by Mum!) that such an expense, on uniforms, gym kit etc was a waste - for a girl. As it happened, I did fairly well at the grammar, but left after my O Levels, with little in the way of aspiration other than to do a secretarial course. Twice in my life, I have been lucky to find Germaine Greer. The first time, I was twenty-one, and on holiday with a girl friend. I picked up a copy of The Female Eunuch. Having recently left a difficult relationship, and experiencing a complete lack of self-esteem, this book changed my life. Twenty-five years or so on and I was writing poetry. One or two poems found their way into anthologies – but there was an element of vanity publishing, in as much as yes; your poem was published, (with no payment), but to have a copy yourself you had to buy it. Pondering quietly one day about the merits, or not, of my poems - over the radio came the voice of Professor Greer. I sent her a couple of poems, never expecting a response, but to my surprise, she did take the time to write to me, I still have the letter. To improve as a poet, she advised, I should read lots and lots of poetry. Perhaps fortunately, although I love hearing poems read aloud, reading off the page takes me straight back to the classroom, and to being ‘told’ what the poem means, rather than being free to interpret it for myself. It occurred to me: I don’t like reading poems, I like reading novels – perhaps I should try to write a novel. I joined a local Writer’s Group, and my confidence slowly grew. ANU: This was your debut work. It must look very different from the far side of having published. What advice do you have for would-be authors? SH: Just keep going, and going and then push a bit more: I’m fifty-seven, it took me a long time – don’t give up, and don’t feel that there’s some set cut off point in life wherein the decision to write vanishes. That said, don’t procrastinate over starting either. Don’t be afraid to self publish – but if you do, make sure your work, whatever genre you write, is really well edited. If, like me you don’t have that skill yourself, then save, save, save and pay a professional – it’s worth every penny and it makes all the difference. Your readers will notice every mistake; make sure your work is as polished as you can make it. The Cunning Woman’s Cup emerged slowly, over many years, more than I care to tell. I never ever imagined that it would be published: when I began the only option was traditional publishing, and I knew that to get ‘noticed’ you had to have ‘contacts’, which I did not have. Deep down, I had absorbed the notion that only properly university educated people, mostly men (still a familiar refrain), could write proper books. I found endless excuses for not writing - family, work…until I finally decided to simply “…give myself Wednesdays.” For over a year, I kept Wednesdays for writing. I wrote and wrote until I had the bedrock of The Cunning Woman’s Cup – with the working title Standing Stones Story. At that stage the story of Mordwand had not emerged, and without Mordwand, The Cunning Woman’s Cup is a nice tale of country folk, with a little of the dark side, but only a little. I submitted to competitions, I submitted to publishing houses, I did not really know what I was 61
doing, but I tried and got the inevitable rejections. I edited, and edited again, but still something was missing. I asked myself - who was the last person to hold this cup? Suddenly there Mordwand was, almost fully formed. I wrote her whole story in one mad flurry of words, keys and fingers. ANU: Which – if any – of the characters and themes from The Cunning Woman’s Cup do you identify with? SH: I’d love to be Avian Tyler – I’m not. I do not have the gift. ANU: It’s worth noting that The Cunning Woman’s Cup is set across a multi-faceted perspective. How did you keep the various points of view clear in your head – is there a knack to switching between tenses? SH: As I’ve explained, the first person story of Mordwand came very late in the whole writing process. Initially, the contemporary story of Margaret and Alice was all in the third person, so no switching had to be done. To be absolutely honest with you, I never even thought about tenses, or points of view as I was writing. I write in an untidy and organic way which works for me until it’s time to edit, then I find that all my time lines for characters are all over the place. If there’s a knack, then I must just be lucky enough to have it naturally. ANU: The Cunning Woman’s Cup explores both science and mysticism with its blend of academia and paganism. Why did you decide to write in this genre and did you find researching for it to be challenging? SH: I do think research is very important. My second novel has been held back by at least six months because I have been researching one element of it in depth. However, with The Cunning Woman’s Cup, this is where I feel like a complete fraud. I’d love to tell you I did hours of research, but there never was a decision to “write in this genre.” The reason for writing this novel was to have mature female characters who are central, not peripheral, not mad, bad or sad, but truly fascinating, vivid, active women, a little set in their ways maybe, but still open to change. The importance in women’s lives of their female friendships is often socially undervalued or underestimated. I started with a short story about two older women, but they would not let go, nagging at me to write more about them. From there I just wrote - some things I already knew, some I just had inklings about so I sketched them in, and then did the research as part of the editing process. Like Mordwand, Alice and Margaret arrived fully formed, an amalgam of the many mature, fascinating women I have had the good fortune to meet during my life. I bought a second hand copy of Tacitus, I already had a few herbals and other pagan interest books on my shelves, and I delved into them to find snippets of fact to give an air of truth in the novel. ANU: Will there be more to follow from the characters of The Cunning Woman’s Cup?
SH: So many readers have asked for a sequel. I agonized about killing off the one character who I felt could/should have been the focus of a series. I did the deed because I was afraid of becoming the woman who writes That Character’s Novels - I thought it might be restrictive. However, given the interest shown, when novel number two is finished I do intend to embark on a sequel to The Cunning Woman’s Cup. I’m not abandoning Duddo. The Cunning Woman’s Cup by Sue Hewitt (ISBN 9781496023452) Published by Painted Lady Press, March 2014 Edited by Chris Foster Cover design and photography by Kit Foster
Biography: Emily Donoho
An American ex-pat living in Scotland, author Emily Donoho has a BA in Psychology from Mount Holyoke College in Western Massachusetts, an MA in the History of Medicine from the University of Durham, and a PhD in the History of Psychiatry from the University of Glasgow. She also enjoys mountaineering, horse riding, climbing, real ale, and Irish traditional music. Her debut novel In the Canyons of Shadow and Light is a psychological suspense coupled with gritty police procedural that is certain to appeal to any fan of these genres. It is available to purchase in paperback, Kindle, and iBook formats.
Voyaging Into Inspiration – An Interview with Emily Donoho Lucky cats that we are, we scratched up an interview with author Emily Donoho. Her haunting debut novel, In the Canyons of Shadow and Light has been nominated for the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award 2015 and is available for purchase via Amazon and iBooks. There’s a fabulous sample of the novel after this article, but to get the full story, follow the evidence links in the author’s bio and collar your copy today!
ANU: Authors often point to a key moment or person in their life that got them hooked on reading and writing. What incident or person do you feel has been your inspiration? ED: My parents got me hooked on reading from a young age. My dad used read books aloud before bedtime; from a young age, my favourite ones were The Lord of the Rings, Black Beauty, and Watership Down. I tested the waters with fiction writing as a kid, around age ten or twelve, I guess: usually about talking animals, inspired by Watership Down and similar books. I won an award when I was in Year 6, when my family was on exchange in Australia that year (my dad, a high school teacher, swapped jobs and homes with an Aussie teacher and his family). The class assignment was writing about the first fleet of British ships that transported convicts to Australia in the late 18th century. Mine was a fictional narrative in the first-person describing the journey from England to Botany Bay from the perspective of one of the ships. I may have been a weird kid. But the teachers loved it. ANU: This was your debut work. It must look very different from the far side of having published. What advice do you have for would-be authors? ED: I wish I had worked out a more comprehensive marketing plan, rather than trying to wing it after the fact. All the websites recommend that you do this, and they are probably right. ANU: It’s worth noting that In the Canyons of Shadow and Light is around four times the length of the average novel. How did you balance writing such a huge book with the rest of your life – is there a trick to adding extra hours to the day?
ED: Being mostly unemployed helps. I was doing the odd freelance horse-training job, but I had a lot of time sitting around the house. Even so, it took me about three years, from a rough draft that was about 16,000 words to start with, to the final draft which is around 190,000 words. ANU: In the Canyons of Shadow and Light covers some incredibly heavy themes, and there is a clear focus upon the realities of police work. Why did you decide to write in this genre and did you find researching for it to be challenging? ED: I've always been interested in criminal justice; those stories draw me in. A lot of police procedural novels ignore the unglamorous, tedious side of homicide investigation in favour of exciting action and violence. That said, Richard Price's novels and Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities are a great inspiration. Can I be Richard Price when I grow up? I wanted to write a book that was as accurate as I could make it, and create a bit of a legal mess for my characters to untangle in the courts. Research into the law side of it is not difficult once you learn how to navigate the online resources for cases and statutes. All that stuff, from New York Appeals Court cases to the Penal Code, is on the web. The police side of it was more of a challenge: tracking down memoirs of NYPD cops, newspaper articles, academic papers on policing, and anything else of relevance. Reading David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, chronicling his year shadowing Baltimore homicide detectives was my biggest revelation. Don't know what I would have done without that book. ANU: Which – if any – of the characters and themes from In the Canyons of Shadow and Light do you identify with? ED: All of the major characters, to some extent. To make realistic, believable characters, I use bits of myself and bits of people I know; thus my characters aren't anybody in particular, but they are three-dimensional people. But in terms of general philosophy towards life, I suppose I identify the most with Alex, as a cynic who would like to see the best in people and generally doesn't, although his experiences are not mine. Nor are his pool playing skills, sadly for me. ANU: Will there be more to follow from the characters of In the Canyons of Shadow and Light? ED: I'm in the home stretch of the first draft of a 'pre-sequel,' a sprawling novel in which some parts of it take place a few years after the events in Canyons, and other parts take place about ten to fifteen years before. It’s about the gritty, seedy New York City of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the homicide rate was at its highest, and a shadowy past that will haunt the present.
Preview of In the Canyons of Shadow and Light, by Emily Donoho. All Rights Reserved.
Prologue: July 2002
The sentencing hearing was at 0900 hours sharp. Since 0630, reporters from every media outlet in the state had crowded the entrance of 100 Centre Street, the Criminal Courts Building. They were jostling for the best position with the international networks, which had sent teams hours earlier. On the other side of the square, a restless group of noisy anti-capital punishment protesters spilled into the street. A line of uniformed police officers in riot gear and two mounted officers kept a wary eye on the chanting crowd of people. Even the protest seemed subdued by the heat simmering off the pavement. The cops were bored and wilted; the horses weary and uninterested: the animals’ ears flopped to the side, sweat darkening their coats as they stood, stamping at the odd fly. The city stared past the heat, steaming in fumes of garbage and exhaust amidst the usual cacophony of trucks and taxis on Canal Street and Chambers Street. Detective Alex Boswell and his partner, Detective Ray Espinosa, approached the gauntlet of police, reporters, and protesters, with eyes cast down. Though dressed similarly in neat dark suits and crisp shirts, in physical appearance they could hardly have differed more: Alex hailed from a Lower East Side Jewish family. Now in his mid-forties, he was 5’8, broad-shouldered, broad-chested, with a low center of gravity and a paunchy gut that his wideshouldered frame carried without appearing overly encumbered. He had creases furrowed into the skin above his brows and gathering into bags below his eyes, a look of being permanently startled or worried that sometimes worked to his advantage in interrogation rooms, as witnesses or suspects couldn’t make out how to read him. Ray was 6’1. He was in his mid-thirties, athletic and cat quick, a man who started his day with at least a five-to-ten mile run. He had a copper complexion from his Puerto Rican heritage, high cheekbones, and his dark, piercing eyes invited little nonsense. Alex hoped to avoid recognition as the primary investigator on the case. They were just a couple detectives, going into the Criminal Courts Building on normal business. However, this court appearance was anything but ‘normal business.’ The case was People of New York v. David LaValle and it was the first time in Manhattan, since 1963, where the prosecutors were seeking the death penalty. Governor Pataki had signed legislation seven years ago 67
reinstating it for particularly heinous defendants charged with first-degree murder, but until now, the only other New York City borough that had used it was Queens County in 1997. David LaValle’s crime had been heinous enough – shooting two police officers who had pulled him over for speeding through a red light on the streets of Morningside Heights. One of the victims, Patrol Sergeant Zach Alonzo, had been a thirty-year veteran on the cusp of retirement, while his partner in the radio car that day, Officer Cathy Sheridan, was a young cop at the start of her career and more heartbreakingly, four months pregnant. The tragic nature of the crime had been amplified by the fact that LaValle was a rather unsavory character, with a history of gang involvement and drug dealing, a criminal record as long as the Mississippi. All this meant that the Manhattan District Attorney, with a view to being seen as ‘tough on crime’ and growing concerns about the election in November, thought it would be the ideal case for proving that he would not shirk at New York’s death penalty statute. After a month-long trial, the jury had convicted LaValle of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of possessing an illegal firearm. Now the lead Assistant DA trying the case, Simon McNally, had to persuade those twelve men and women that the state of New York should execute him. There was nothing to like about this defendant. He had murdered two police officers on a routine traffic stop, and for years, he had ruthlessly presided over a drug corner in Brooklyn, holding it hostage with violence, assaults, felony menacing; and had not Brooklyn North Homicide detectives told Alex that they liked him for a drug-related killing from 1998 but could never prove it. Still, the whole idea of executing him was not sitting well with Alex. Unlike the protesters in front of the courthouse today, he struggled to elucidate in any sort of philosophical way why he found it so uncomfortable. One of the protester’s signs outside had read ‘an eye for an eye makes everyone blind,’ and Alex could not get that trite slogan out of his mind. He had arrested people for revenge killings. Revenge was a motive, not a justification. Yet it was now acceptable when the state did it? As they entered the courthouse, Alex remained unsettled. He wasn’t sure if the state should be killing people at all, even less sure that he wanted to have anything to do with it when it did. He didn’t want to be responsible for another person’s death. Being a homicide detective made this problematic, as all capital cases were first and foremost murders. Ray, on the other hand, well, he would shoot the bastard himself, if he could. He had the view that if you took a life in cold blood, all bets were off and you deserved whatever was coming. That was why he and Alex had so little to say to one another today. They sat in the second row of the gallery, packed in like a cattle truck. The prosecution put on a parade of witnesses to testify about aggravating circumstances. 68
There were the families of the murdered cops; there was a former girlfriend of the defendant, who had regularly pursued domestic violence charges against him; there was a former probation officer who had tried to get him to reform his ways, but found him to be “intransigently violent” and “recidivist;” there was the precinct detective, who got the first call to the scene. The precinct detective, whose name was McDonough, wept as he testified, describing the call: shots fired, reported from neighboring buildings, officers down. While the precinct detective testified, Alex found himself anxiously chewing on his nails, knowing McNally would call him next. The crowded courtroom was unbearably hot; he felt his shirt clinging to his chest and back, the sweat oozing along his skin. It had been more than twenty-five years since he had been so stressed by the prospect of taking the stand. In those days he had been young, having just made the Bureau, a precinct detective in Hell’s Kitchen, brittle and inexperienced. Now, his anxiety was laughable. How many hundreds of times had he been in that witness box? He’d had defense lawyers strew his credibility across the floor. He’d been accused of lying, bribery, stupidity, cronyism, negligence, laziness, incompetence. Everything a defense lawyer could do to a prosecution witness; he had probably seen it and tried his best to deflect it. Up until this moment, he had been confident that no courtroom idiocy could ever faze him. He stopped biting his nails and balled his hand into a fist, digging it into his leg. Then McNally said, “For their next witness, the People call Detective Alex Boswell to the stand.” Alex shut his eyes for a second and then, without looking at Ray, who muttered something like, “Good luck, Lex,” he got up, walked through the gallery, stepped into the witness box. His feet felt heavy. The bailiff came up to the stand, Bible in hand, whilst Alex tried to calm his whirlwind thoughts. He needed to settle his mind on what McNally had prepped him to say last week, rather than about what would happen when and if the jury wholeheartedly swallowed his testimony about aggravating circumstances. “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” The bailiff had the rhythmic monotone of someone who has spoken that sentence thousands of times and doesn’t care anymore. “I do,” Alex said, without even thinking. As he looked out at the gallery, at the defendant slumped in his seat next to his lawyer, he wished he could be anywhere else. He did not want to be explaining to the jury why the state of New York should kill this guy. But he would dutifully answer McNally’s questions with the practice and efficacy of an old cop who had been in court too many times to count. He rattled through his name, rank, grade, squad, like he did in every court appearance. Detective, Second Grade, Manhattan North Homicide.
Then McNally said, “Detective Boswell, I am sure the jury remembers you from the trial, but it was a long trial and they heard a lot of witnesses. Can you please remind the jury what your role in the case was?” “I was the primary detective from Manhattan North Homicide,” Alex answered, avoiding eye contact with the defendant, making fleeting eye contact with the jury, who were staring at him, transfixed, like people intently staring at the big cats in the Bronx Zoo. That’s how he felt; like he was pacing back and forth in a cage. He fixed his gaze on a point in the back of the courtroom, floating somewhere between where McNally stood in front of the lectern and the jury box. McNally was strong, fierce and resolute. His second chair, Zoë Sheehan, sat quietly at the prosecution table, playing with the top of a clicky pen, eyes cast down at the notes and files piled in front of her. “Please tell us about the crime scene, what you saw when you and your partner first arrived,” McNally said. Though it had been two years ago, how vividly he remembered the chaos around the crime scene; every squad car on the West Side parked on that street with its lights flashing, the manhunt through the streets of Harlem for the suspect, the cops from the Two-Six flooding the neighborhood, distraught, horrified, and angry. It had shattered what Alex now thought of as a lull, after the turmoil of the 80s and early 90s, the crack ‘epidemic’ hitting the streets hard and fast, birthing high drug use, high crime, high homelessness, high murder rates, high everything. Enough to keep a Manhattan homicide detective working more overtime than he ever thought possible. In the late-90s, after a decade of mayhem, astoundingly the city’s murder rate plummeted. But after September 11, the relative affability of New York smashed, the city wounded, Alex learned about a different kind of fear. Suddenly, every bridge, tunnel, subway, train station, and passing airplane looked like a threat; you never what would come next, you could not stop it. He had thought that this is what must be like, living in Belfast or Tel Aviv. He brought his mind back to the hearing. The crime scene -- a glorious, cool early May morning, a fresh breeze blowing away the perennial reek of garbage and exhaust, the sun glittering off the pavement, the old stonework gleaming, the trees along the streets and in the parks showing new leaves, the city alive and vibrant. Taking leafy Broadway to the office, you would not think anything terrible could ever happen. But at West 115th and Eighth, the bright and calm morning was fractured for the Twenty-Sixth Precinct and for the generally agreeable neighborhood around Columbia University. Alex picked up the phone just as he arrived at the office, a frantic call reporting a cop shooting in Morningside Heights, and with his partner in those days, James Hurley, racing to the scene as fast as they could drive from West 133rd. “When we arrived on the scene,” he said to the jury, “Patrol Sergeant Alonzo was dead on the street with two bullet holes in his chest, and his partner,
Officer Sheridan, was still in the radio car, dead with a gunshot wound to the head.” “Had either of the officers drawn their weapons?” “I don’t think they had the chance. Alonzo’s weapon was still in its holster. Sheridan’s was out, but she obviously didn’t even have the chance to get out of the car before she was shot. The car door was partially opened, and she was found half in, half out of the car, so she had presumably tried, but the shooter had moved too fast.” “Had her gun been fired?” Alex shook his head. “Definitely not. It had a full clip.” “We heard earlier from Detective McDonough that the officers had radioed into Dispatch, saying they were doing a traffic stop on a vehicle that had jumped a red light. So with that in mind, can you explain what you surmised after you examined the crime scene?” Alex made a bit more eye contact with the jury; coming back to the comfortable routine of a direct examination. “You’re trained that if you’re stopping a vehicle, you want to see the driver’s hands and if you’re at all concerned, you get the driver out of the car and have him to put his hands on the car. You’ll have your firearm out if you’re really worried. If you see him reach for anything suspicious, your first and foremost job is to keep yourself safe so you are trained to draw your weapon. On seeing that Alonzo didn’t, we concluded that the shooter must have had his gun out and ready to fire, and he ambushed the two victims, shooting before they even approached his car or had a chance to draw their firearms.” “Was there any other evidence that supported this?” “The ballistics reports, as you heard at the trial, suggested that the defendant must have been at least six or seven feet away from Sergeant Alonzo when he shot him. So he had the gun out and fired as Alonzo approached the vehicle. The officer hadn’t yet done anything, or even spoken to him. At this point, we think the defendant then got out of his car and went to the radio car, where he shot Officer Sheridan. It must have all happened within seconds, as Sheridan did not have the chance to fire any shots, or even get out of her car.” “Did Alonzo or Sheridan make radio calls or have any further communication with Central after the one where the officers reported that they were stopping the defendant’s vehicle?” “No, none.” Alex ran his fingernail against his lower lip. “What did you conclude from that?” “They had no chance to call in a ten-thirteen.” Simon’s face was grave. “Can you explain to the jury what a ten-thirteen is?” “Police officer in distress: get back-up to the scene forthwith. Anyone who hears someone calling that code will go immediately to that location.” “So they were dead, it was over, before they could get to their radio?” 71
Alex sniffed. “We thought so.” His gaze darted to the defendant, who was sinking into his chair, the look on his face blank, glassy, as if Alex and Simon were talking about someone else. Any cop who could stagger to his or her radio and with their dying breath, make a ten-thirteen call would. The perp had shot Alonzo and Sheridan before they knew what was happening -- no time to defend themselves or call for help. “What else led you to think that he intended to shoot the officers before they even got to his car?” “His gun wasn’t a semi-automatic. It was an old Smith and Wesson .38 revolver. You had to cock it before firing, which takes a second or two and can’t be done quietly. The officers would have seen or heard that, maybe had enough time to react, or maybe one of them would have. Given how fast things must have happened, the gun must have been cocked and ready to fire as soon as the defendant stopped his vehicle. Also, there was no glass anywhere. He didn’t shoot through a window.” “What else could you determine from the crime scene itself?” “Ballistics and the ME reported that the gunshot wound on Sergeant Sheridan was from about two or three feet away. Really close. I mean, we could see that as well, the shot had taken half her skull off. For a gun of that size to cause that kind of damage, it has to be within a few feet of the victim.” “Why is that important?” “The police car was parked behind the defendant’s car, probably ten or twelve feet away. So the defendant, after shooting Sergeant Alonzo, must have gotten out of the car, run straight over to the police car, and shot Officer Sheridan. He could not have caused those wounds if he’d shot from his car. And if he had, there would probably have been damage to the vehicles and there wasn’t any.” Everyone who had worked on the case had felt a chill in their bones as they reconstructed what might have happened. Everyone has probably done a traffic stop at some point in their careers. You can’t let yourself start thinking that a person in the car will, without any warning, start firing away at you, but that’s what this guy had done. As he testified, Alex wondered if LaValle indeed deserved the needle in his arm. The cops in the Two-Six thought so; Ray thought so; McNally thought so. He wished he shared their certainty; it would be easier. “We know from your trial testimony how you and Detective Hurley identified LaValle as a suspect. Can you tell us what happened next?” The car’s license plate had been called in by Alonzo and Sheridan, registered to one David LaValle, who lived in Brooklyn, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Among the many felonies LaValle had been charged with over the years, one was stealing a gun, a .38 Smith and Wesson which had been used in another homicide, so they had the ballistics on file, the bullets found in the dead officers matching it perfectly. The charges against LaValle in that case were dismissed 72
when a judge ruled that Brooklyn Robbery had conducted an unlawful search, but everyone was pretty sure he still had the gun although it hadn’t turned up in aforesaid unlawful search. Alex took a breath. “I went to a judge and got an arrest warrant drawn up, and then we went to Bed-Stuy, to Halsey Street, with Emergency Services. When we entered his apartment, the defendant made a run for it. Detective Hurley and I chased him out onto the street. A couple radio cars passed us and blocked off the street, so he stopped and pointed his gun at me and Detective Hurley.” “What were you thinking in that moment?” “I was scared. This guy had already shot two cops. What did he have to lose, shooting me?” “But he didn’t.” “No, there was lots of backup. Every cop on the block must have had their gun sighted on him. If he’d fired, he’d be dead. He dropped his weapon and we arrested him.” “Then what happened?” “He had asked for a lawyer, so we took him to the nearest precinct, the Seventy-Ninth, and had to wait for defense counsel to arrive before we could speak to him.” “I know the jury heard your testimony about this initial interview at the trial, so I just want you to emphasize here, what was the defendant’s attitude when you first questioned him at the Seventy-Ninth Precinct?” “He was trying to be a gangster, a tough guy. He said he didn’t do it.” Alex flicked his eyes to the defendant, who didn’t look remotely like a tough guy, cowering beside his lawyer, meek and tremulous, refusing to look up at him, the jury, or the judge. You would not think of him as a man who would brazenly shoot two police officers and threaten a dozen more. Alex remembered the look on the poor defense lawyer’s face, wondering what he’d gotten himself into, representing this guy, but Legal Aid lawyers don’t get to choose their clients. “Fuck the police!” LaValle had stated. In the Seven-Nine’s interrogation room, he had been wearing a hoodie, baggie jeans, a bandana on his head, and what cops called a BFA, a bad fucking attitude, slouching disdainfully next to his attorney, swearing at the detectives, insisting on his innocence, and announcing that he ruled the streets. Not the police: him. “So he lied to you.” “He told us that someone must have stolen his car and stuck with that story.” This was the same bullshit story that his lawyer had told to the jury during the trial. “What else did he say?” “He called us names that I don’t know if I can repeat here.”
“If Her Honor will give you permission, can you give us an example?” McNally smiled slightly and looked at Judge Cheryl Grieve, who had evenhandedly presided over the trial, a no-nonsense jurist who did not let lawyers deviate a millimeter from the rules of evidence. “Go on, Detective,” said Judge Grieve placidly. Like any Criminal Term judge, she had probably heard every sort of swear word you could imagine. He shifted his weight in the hard seat. “Well, among other things, I think he told us to go fuck ourselves on multiple occasions and in multiple ways.” “What else did you ask in this interview?” “We asked why, if he was innocent did he make a run for it and then threaten myself and Detective Hurley with his gun.” “What were his reasons for that?” “He said that we were the police and we were chasing him; he didn’t need any more reasons than that.” “And he’d had dealings with the police before?” “Oh, yes.” McNally picked up a thick pile of papers off the prosecution table and said, “The People would like to enter into evidence exhibit 23, the defendant’s criminal record.” Judge Grieve allowed McNally to enter the rap sheet as evidence. This would be new information for the jury, since you generally were not allowed to use a defendant’s prior convictions during a criminal trial, and LaValle had not fallen under any of the Molineux exceptions, though not for lack of trying on McNally’s part. However, priors were admissible in a sentencing hearing. And LaValle’s rap sheet looked like War and Peace. “Request permission to approach the witness, Your Honor?” On TV, it always seemed as if lawyers were charging up to witnesses, shouting in their faces, when in real courtrooms, any lawyer who didn’t plan on being disbarred or held in contempt could not even walk up to a witness to give him evidence without express permission from the judge. Nodding, Grieve assented in her smooth manner. “Permission granted, Counselor.” McNally approached Alex, handing him the rap sheet, saying, “Can you tell the jury what this is, Detective?” “It’s the defendant’s New York criminal record.” “How far does it date back to?” Alex looked at the top of the sheet. “1987,” he said. If anything were going to convince the jury to sentence LaValle to death, it would be this. “And, prior to this one, when was his most recent offense?” “2000.” “Are any of those offenses violent felonies?” “Yeah; quite a few of them were.” “Can you read off some examples?” 74
Alex shuffled through the sheets of paper. McNally had already highlighted the ones he wanted read off during a witness prep session, so he merely had to find the highlighted bits. It was a fucking shopping list of bad behavior. He squinted at the tiny typewriter-style writing, thinking these didn’t used to be so difficult to see -- he ought to get his eyes checked -- then he read aloud. “First degree assault, 1990. First degree robbery -- that’s armed robbery - 1992. Second degree assault, 1994. Second degree assault, 1995. First degree assault, 1996. Second degree assault, 1996. Second degree assault, 1997. Second degree criminal possession of a weapon, 1997. Second degree assault, 1999. And numerous charges for possessing and distributing narcotics.” “What did you conclude from that?” “The defendant has a history of beating people up and threatening them with a gun, and sometimes a knife.” “Thank you, Detective. After you arrested Mr. LaValle, what did you do next?” “Detective Hurley, Detective Vasquez, and myself went back to his apartment to conduct a search.” “What sort of evidence did you find?” “We found firearms magazines. Stuff with instructions for making sawed-off shotguns; modifying bullets - that type of thing.” McNally went through the ritual of introducing the magazines into evidence and then showing them to Alex. “Are these the magazines you found?” “Yes,” he said, glancing at the magazines in question. They were the sort of garish tabloid, weapon pornography, bought primarily by guys with very small penises who found that looking at pictures of huge guns made them feel better about themselves. “What else did you find?” “A bunch of old copies of the New York Post.” “Was there anything in particular about those newspapers you noticed?” “Yeah, he’d cut out and saved articles about cop-shootings going back to the 70s. There were quite a few on killings by the Black Liberation Army back in the 70s and 80s. They were stacked on a counter in the kitchen.” “What did you make of that?” “That he had, uh, a bizarre interest in cop-shootings and was sympathetic to a militant group with a history of assassinating police officers.” “Now, did the defendant have any more recent legal problems?” “Yes.” “What were they?” “He didn’t appear in court when he was due to be arraigned on a minor drug dealing offense in King’s County. The judge issued a bench warrant. He was stopped by the Street Crime Unit from the Seven-Nine Precinct as part of 75
their routine stop-and-frisk procedures about a week later. They found a couple ounces of cocaine on him and the bench warrant, so they took him down to the precinct where he was processed on all those charges; including criminal possession in the third degree.” “And after he was let out on bail, where did he stay?” “With a friend, a guy called Jeremiah Combs, who went by the street name of Fish.” “And you interviewed Mr. Combs, who, the jury will remember, also testified in the trial.” “Yes.” Combs, or ‘Fish,’ a guy who LaValle ran hustles with in order to acquire money for their speedball habits, had received a year’s probation on a burglary two rap and a promise of a bed in a rehab facility in exchange for his testimony. Last week, Alex had received a handwritten letter in his office mail from Fish, thanking him profusely for eliciting his cooperation in the case, as if it had been an act of Alex’s own charity, closing a homicide merely an afterthought, because it had given him the kick in the ass he needed to get clean, and now, two years later, he was still off drugs, working as an addiction counselor. This was a strange job, sometimes. “Did Mr. Combs tell you about the defendant, what he said after his arrest?” Alex had to clear his throat again. He wished it didn’t feel so dry. “He said the defendant had been really, uh, upset about being stopped-and-frisked and spent about a week ranting to him about wanting to kill a cop.” “Objection, hearsay,” droned the defense lawyer: William Scott. His voice was tired, the objection more of an attempt to remind everyone he was still there, rather than any serious attempt to suppress McNally’s question. McNally stiffened his back. “It’s a statement against penal interest, Your Honor, and goes to aggravating circumstances.” “Objection is overruled.” Pleased, like he’d just scored a point at a football game, McNally turned his attention back to Alex. “Detective, what did you conclude from all of this evidence, then?” “That he had a beef with the NYPD and was planning on causing some kind of trouble. So when he jumped that red light, it was a premeditated attempt to get stopped by and ambush the officers in radio car 9756, or whatever car happened to be there.” “Thank you, Detective. The People have finished with this witness.” Judge Grieve asked the defense attorney if he wanted to cross-examine. “Yes, Your Honor.” Scott rose to his feet, resting heavily against the lectern. He looked worn down: fed up with the whole case but grimly fighting to the end to save his client from the needle. He studied Alex, sizing him up, the way perps sometimes sized him up if he was arresting them, and they were 76
wondering if they could get away with giving him a hard time. “Detective Boswell, what would you say race relations were like at that time between the African-American community and the NYPD?” “Objection, speculation,” called McNally. “The witness is a detective in uptown Manhattan,” insisted Scott. “He should not have to speculate on the relationship between his department and the surrounding community.” “Overruled.” Alex saw McNally glowering, now annoyed, the football player who receives an unfair penalty. He briefly met the prosecutor’s gaze, and then replied quietly. “Not great.” That had to be the understatement of the fucking year. ‘Broken windows’ policing, arresting people for minor misdemeanor offenses, was getting eviscerated in the press; Amadou Diallo had been shot 41 times by cops from the Street Crime Unit in the Bronx the previous year; a couple years before that, four officers had been indicted in federal court for sodomizing Abner Louima while he was in custody; there had been protests on the street against the police department. “Given the difficult relationship at the time, could my client have therefore felt threatened by the officers approaching his car?” “He could have. But he had his gun out and the victims didn’t.” “Do you think my client, as a black man, had reason to fear or be angry at the police?” “No.” Alex ran his tongue against the edges of his back teeth, not sure he quite believed that himself. Still, he could not very well say yes. “You don’t think, in light of Diallo, that a man such as my client had reason to be afraid of the police, who shot an unarmed black man with no warning?” “Your client wasn’t unarmed!” “Objection, prejudicial,” snapped McNally. “Sustained.” “Would you say that the police, since the mid-1990s, have regularly employed humiliating and degrading tactics, racially profiling and targeting men such as my client, under the pretense of dealing with street level drug crime?” Alex pursed his lips. “No.” “My client was stopped and frisked, wasn’t he?” “Yes.” Stop-and-frisk: a city statute of improbable constitutionality that exempted anyone in a high crime neighborhood from the usual constraints of probable cause. In New York City, it meant that a police officer could stop and pat down anyone on the street if he or she had ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the
person might be involved in criminal activity. In places like Washington Heights, Brownsville, or Bed-Stuy, that included almost everyone. “Are you aware that my client was stopped and frisked on at least twenty occasions in the six months prior to his arrest for this homicide?” “Yes. He was selling cocaine on the corner of Halsey and Tompkins Street.” “Allegedly,” stated Scott. “Are you aware that cocaine was found in his possession on only one of those occasions?” “It’s a known drug corner.” “So any young black man on that ‘known drug corner’ is fair game to for the police to stop, is that it?” “If anyone is ‘reasonably suspicious,’” Alex countered, struggling to twist out from underneath the questions. “Objection,” barked McNally. “Is stop-and-frisk on trial here?” “It is important for the jury to understand my client’s culture, where he comes from, his mental state,” Scott argued. Grieve inclined her head. “I’ll allow it.” Scott’s lips moved in a slight smile of relief. “Stop-and-frisk has been said to be humiliating and degrading. Would you say that some of your fellow officers use it to humiliate people, intimidate communities, to harass people on the corners?” “I don’t know. I’m not on patrol. I haven’t been since 1981.” Alex knew that he sounded defensive. He felt trapped; the lawyer hammering police department policies that had nothing to do with him, and very little with the fact that his client had shot two police officers, stop-and-fucking-frisk or not. “Detective, are you aware that in almost ninety percent of stops, the police do not find drugs or guns or any other contraband?” “I don’t know the statistics.” “Are you aware that more than eighty-eight percent of people stopped are in fact innocent?” “Your client isn’t one of those eighty-eight percent.” “Are you aware that, as a result of ‘broken windows’ policing and stopand-frisk, entire communities, entire neighborhoods, feel alienated from and threatened by the police?” “Objection: this is far outside of the witness’ personal knowledge!” “Sustained.” Alex didn’t have to answer that question, but it was in the jury’s mind anyway. Scott fidgeted with the paperwork on front of him. He looked up at Alex again, his lips pursed. “Detective, you’ve been in Homicide for a long time, haven’t you?” “Yes,” Alex said warily. He glanced over at McNally. The prosecutor’s fierce brows were furrowing, his hand going to his chin, as though he were unsure of what the 78
defense attorney was doing but had coiled up, ready to launch into an objection if he didn’t like it. “When did you join Manhattan North Homicide?” “1987.” “So that’s fifteen years as a homicide detective.” “Your math is very good.” “Am I right to assume that you have arrested and charged people with murder, people who killed someone out of revenge?” “Yeah, I guess.” Fuck, how did Scott know to go there? He must have noticed the doubt in Alex’s eyes, or a slight hesitation in his answers. Was he so easy to read? He had felt confident that his testimony had been trundling along easily enough, his misgivings about the whole thing well hidden. McNally was nearly on his feet, but he hesitated for a second. Scott wasn’t stopping. “So you might say it’s not right to kill someone because you want revenge, even if they have committed a murder?” “Objection!” shouted McNally, rescuing Alex from that dangerous and uncomfortable corner. “That question is outside of the witness’ personal knowledge.” “The witness has been a homicide detective for fifteen years. I think he must have a good idea of what constitutes justifiable homicide, and what gets you done for murder.” “Detective Boswell is here to testify about the circumstances of this case. Not to offer his opinion on ethics or jurisprudence - which he isn’t an expert in unless he has a PhD in philosophy or a law degree that I don’t know about.” “Keep it cool, Mr. McNally,” commanded Grieve, her voice languid, but implying a contempt citation could be forthcoming. This judge was used to keeping a rein on the feisty prosecutor. “Your objection is sustained.” Defeated, Scott looked down, murmuring quietly, “I don’t have any further questions for this witness.” “Would the People like to redirect?” asked Grieve. “Yes, Your Honor.” McNally rose to his feet, gliding to the lectern. “Permission to approach the witness, Your Honor?” “Granted.” McNally walked up to Alex and handed him papers before retreating back to the lectern. “Detective, please tell the jury what that is.” Alex looked down at the papers. So that was the game the prosecutor was playing. He must have anticipated Scott’s assault on stop-and-frisk and prepared his counter-attack. “Compstat reports from 1990 to 2001.” “Objection, relevance?” “Mr. Scott opened the door with his inquiries about police strategy.” “I’ll allow it, but watch yourself, Mr. McNally.”
McNally was on a roll, in command of the courtroom. He made eye contact again with Alex. “Detective, can you please explain what Compstat is?” “It’s a strategy for targeting policing at high crime areas, using mapping and data from precincts to pinpoint places where the most crimes are occurring and tailoring a police response accordingly.” That was the shorthand party line anyway. The reality made police work much more of a numbers game, with enough paperwork to drive you mad. “According to the data you have there, how many homicides occurred in the Thirty-Fourth Precinct in 1990?” Alex squinted at the report, the numbers blurry. “One hundred and three.” “How about 1993?” “Fifty.” “1998?” “Nine.” “And 2001?” “Seven.” “Let’s talk about Morningside Heights, where this crime occurred. The Twenty-Sixth Precinct. How many homicides in 1990?” Alex found the Compstat report from the Two-Six. “Fifteen.” “And 2001?” “One.” “Now, tell me the total number of felonies recorded in the Twenty-Sixth Precinct in 1990?” “Three thousand three hundred and eighty.” “How about in 2001?” “Nine hundred forty-five.” He rubbed his aching eyes. “Wow,’” McNally said theatrically. “Does your experience bear those statistics out?” “Yeah.” “Can you estimate how many homicides you personally worked --- and that’s cases from all the precincts north of 59th Street -- in 1990?” Alex creased his brows. “Maybe like thirty or forty.” This would be far more than Compstat related since it only reflected data when there had been an arrest, thus unsolved murders went unseen. A drug murder, some crackhead or slinger, runner or lookout, the DOA in an alley or on the street, no witnesses, no weapon, little in the way of forensics. All of those were likely to be ‘stone whodunits,’ shitbag cases you had to be lucky to solve. Yet even when crack and the homicide rate were at the height of their trajectories, Alex had always managed to keep his clearance rate around seventy-five percent, respectable by any urban police department’s standards. “How about 2001?” continued McNally. “Around a dozen.”
“So this massive reduction in crime, in violent crime, what does that tell you about the NYPD’s strategies with regards to policing this city?” “Uh, it’s worked,” Alex replied, chewing on the back of his tongue. “The city’s a lot safer.” He would not say unequivocally that Rudy Giuliani and his police commissioner, Bill Bratton, could claim that their policing strategies were unilaterally responsible for New York’s plummeting crime rate (Giuliani and Bratton, of course, would and did). But no one was going to deny that it had some effect, the city a much better place, and alongside the shrinking of the crack epidemic, perhaps things like Compstat, ‘broken windows,’ and stop-andfrisk had played some role in that. Alex was a homicide detective, not a strategist or sociologist, so he had no idea. He just knew what he saw on the streets. “Thank you, Detective. No more questions.” Grieve nodded. “You may stand down, Detective.” Alex retreated from the witness stand, returning to his seat in the gallery next to Ray. Usually he was gratified when the direct examination communicated to the judge and jury exactly what he and the prosecutors hoped it would. Instead, he had a queasy feeling in his stomach as he eased himself into the pew beside his partner. He touched his forehead, rubbing at the sweat beading on his brow. Ray patted him on the back. “That was well done.” He didn’t answer. He lowered his eyelids, the details of the crime scene that he had just testified about coalescing in his mind, vivid, graphic, like he was there, not here in court. Those two cops, senselessly murdered, the bullets tearing through flesh. One of them pregnant with her first child: so make that three dead. The blood splattered all over the front seats and the dash of their radio car, coagulating in pools on the street. The world most certainly would not be worse off if David LaValle weren’t in it.
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The September issue of ANU featuring the works of Peter O’Neill, Wylkys Weinhardt, Michael McAloran, Matthew Duggan, Lana Bell, Helen Harris...
Published on Sep 3, 2015
The September issue of ANU featuring the works of Peter O’Neill, Wylkys Weinhardt, Michael McAloran, Matthew Duggan, Lana Bell, Helen Harris...