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Cop held in killing of mute with rake
How was I to know the suspect could not hear me
shout, “Drop your weapon to the ground!”
as he continued to muster the dead leaves
which had accumulated since August?
How was I to know the perp wasn’t loaded,
that he was stone sober, going about his work?
How was I to know my language failed me,
that my dumb words ricocheted away from the man
who jerked his yard tool, startled when I stood
behind him, pointing my nervous automatic at his chest?

Only minor injuries reported to a small child
Besides, there’s plenty of time for him to grow
used to the bad news of fractures and contusions.
No need to worry him now how the world can poke
out his eyes and sever his spine, leaving him a stranger
to his extremities. When he is no longer a minor,
when he becomes a major, then we can tell him
the details of the whole story, how the happy ending
is when the victim dies, finally free of the pain
that has grown inside him waiting to be born.

Philadelphia wipes out crime on paper
And not a moment too soon,
the mayor complained
to the police chief. The trees
are a powerful block whose votes
I must have for re-election.
They weren’t happy working
overtime to replenish the reams
vandalized by careless copiers
and shredders that cut away
the best rings of their lives.
Now that the trees are muted,
I want you to hit the bricks
and clean up the mess
of the leaves and arrest
the men who do not listen,
who continue to scratch
their rakes against
the fine skin of the lawns.
Peter E. Murphy is the author of Stubborn Child (2005), a finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize, and a chapbook, Thorough & Efficient (2008) both from Jane Street Press. Retired from teaching English and creative writing at Atlantic City High School, he now teaches poetry writing at Richard Stockton College and is the founder/director of the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway held annually in Cape May.

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