THE DOG RUNS ON, a poem for Alex Nieto

by | May 26, 2016 | Musings, News, Poetry | 2 comments

Alex Nieto

Alex Nieto

I’ve been writing more poetry since attending a workshop led by poet and memoirist Arthur Flynn DeSilver on poetry for prose writers at a day-long writers’ conference hosted by Redwood Writers in April. On Monday, May 23, a poem I wrote about two weeks ago, the dog runs on, was published by The New Verse News.

The poem is in honor of Alex Nieto, who was gunned down in an officer-involved shooting in San Francisco in March 2014I’ll paste it in now:

 

 

The dog runs on

By Laura McHale Holland

the dog runs on
and my daughter’s friend
is gone

Alex carries a burrito
up Bernal Hill
a neighborhood jewel
his lifelong home

a husky, off leash, lunges, yips, growls
in pursuit of Alex’s food
the dog’s owner doesn’t notice, doesn’t care
he’s looking at a female jogger’s ass

Alex leaps onto a park bench
the dog lunges, yips, growls
Alex stands, fends off the fangs
the dog’s owner doesn’t notice, doesn’t care
he’s looking at a young jogger’s ass
the dog lunges, yips, growls
Alex pulls out a taser, points it at the beast
the owner notices, reins in his dog,
sees he’s facing a taser, not a gun

he trots off with his dog, calls a friend
says he wishes California were like Florida
he could stand his ground against
a brown-skinned, no good gangbanger
who dares to threaten his lovely dog
he could stand his ground against
a Latino dressed in red 49ers jacket
black 49ers cap, black pants, sunglasses
he could dispense with Alex
who is unnerved by a dog lunging
for a burrito on Bernal Hill
a neighborhood jewel
Alex’s lifelong home

Alex sits down, bites into his burrito
some passersby see a normal guy, a familiar face
others see a menace with gun tucked at his waist
one calls 911, police drive up the hill
Alex finishes his meal, stands up
a security guard with licensed taser tucked away
Alex, ready for work, ambles a familiar route
police move in
Alex ambles a familiar route, police move in
he does not know his new neighbors
ensconced in remodeled homes
believe he’s a threat, police move in
Alex does not know his neighbors, ensconced
see him as a threat, police move in

What happens next?
officers involved say they told Alex to stop
but he crouched, weapon in hand
they feared for their lives
he crouched, weapon in hand

people who loved Alex say
he would never do that
he was a role model, a youth advocate
a community volunteer
he studied criminal justice
he knew better than most
how to respond to police

an eyewitness says Alex did not
crouch, did not pull out his taser
an eyewitness says Alex did not
pull out his taser, did not crouch
an eyewitness says Alex’s hands
were in his pockets

my daughter says Alex, her friend
from Horace Mann middle school,
was a sweetheart, a peacemaker, always
a connector, a sweetheart always
in all ways

bullets blast and soar
through Alex’s lifetime home
knock the young man down
shatter his jaw and teeth
rip through leg bones
blast and shatter his lifetime
bullets pound the young man
already down without motion
bullets mangle his brain
his blood colors the ground
and the bullets stop at last
his blood pools on the ground

Alex, Buddhist, peace activist,
junior college graduate
aspiring probation officer
Alex, campaign volunteer
community event organizer
Alex deeply loved and loving deeply
breathes his last on Bernal Hill, his home
Alex, a neighborhood jewel
loving deeply and deeply loved
breathes his last on Bernal Hill
and the bullets stop at last

When San Francisco’s finest enter the home
where Alex dreamed the dreams of childhood
where he grew from beloved boy to beloved man
they do not tell his parents their son is dead
they interrogate, look for gang affiliations
they do not tell his parents their son is dead
they interrogate, look for drug connections
proof that Alex was unstable, unreliable, violent
San Francisco’s finest fail to mention that Alex is dead
until his parents demand answers
with no warrant, San Francisco’s finest steal Alex’s car
they find no drug connections, no gang affiliations
they smear Alex’s memory, look for drug connections
gang affiliations, look for dirt and find none

police brass, city brass exonerate the officers
the grieving parents seek justice, restitution in a civil trial
the dog’s owner testifies, jokes about the jogger’s ass
Alex’s grieving parents look on
the officers laugh in the hallway
the grieving parents look on
a jury clears the laughing officers
the grieving parents look on
the dog’s owner doesn’t notice, doesn’t care

the dog runs on and on
my daughter’s friend
is gone

 

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2 Comments

  1. Ana Manwaring

    Wow. This says it all, doesn’t it? A very disturbing story and powerful poem.

  2. Laura

    Thank you for stopping by and leaving this supportive comment, Ana!

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