for David Ignatow
Midnight. For the past three hours
I've raked over Plato's Republic
with my students, all of them John
Jay cops, and now some of us
have come to Rooney's to unwind.
Boilermakers. Double shots and triples.
Fitzgerald's still in his undercover
clothes and giveaway white socks, and two
lieutenants--Seluzzi in the sharkskin suit
& D'Ambruzzo in the leather--have just
invited me to catch their fancy (and illegal)
digs somewhere up in Harlem, when
this cop begins to tell his story:
how he and his partner trailed
this pusher for six weeks before
they trapped him in a burnt-out
tenement somewhere down in SoHo,
one coming at him up the stairwell,
the other up the fire escape
and through a busted window. But by
the time they've grabbed him
he's standing over an open window
and he's clean. The partner races down
into the courtyard and begins going
through the garbage until he finds
what it is he's after: a white bag
hanging from a junk mimosa like
the Christmas gift it is, and which now
he plants back on the suspect.
Cross-examined by a lawyer who does his best
to rattle them, he and his partner
stick by their story, and the charges stick.
Fitzgerald shrugs. Business as usual.
But the cop goes on. Better to let
the guy go free than under oath
to have to lie like that.
And suddenly you can hear the heavy
suck of air before Seluzzi, who
half an hour before was boasting
about being on the take, staggers
to his feet, outraged at what he's heard,
and insists on taking the bastard
downtown so they can book him.
Which naturally brings to an end
the discussion we've been having,
and soon each of us is heading
for an exit, embarrassed by the awkward
light the cop has thrown on things.
Which makes it clearer now to me why
the State would offer someone like Socrates
a shot of hemlock. And even clearer
why Socrates would want to drink it.