Officer Mark Dial, Who Shot Eddie Irizarry, Will Be Fired for Insubordination

—headline in The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 23, 2023


The white balloons rise in the 100 block of East Willard Street.

Some of the white balloons float the word Justicia into the sky.


The officers in the white cruiser saw Eddie hop the curb and would send

a bouquet of words into the sky above the 100 block of East Willard Street,

words bumping as they spiraled through the clouds: driving erratically,

they said, lunged with a knife, they said, multiple commands and shots fired.

At the ER, doctors bathed Eddie in white light to pronounce him dead.


Eddie’s aunt Zoraida knew her Eddie, the reggaetón in his headphones,

the wheelies on dirt bikes, the cars that would roar back to life whenever

he dipped his oil-black hands into their entrails, the pocketknife to strip wires.

She remembered the boy from Ponce, Puerto Rico, cowled like a monk

in his black hoodie, never a jail cell, never a ticket, never a word in English.

Zoraida and the cousins canvassed the 100 block of East Willard Street,

pushing doorbells, searching for a doorbell video, watching it on a loop:


Eddie is parallel parking, careful not to squash the orange cone under the tire.

The cruiser glides alongside, no siren, no lights. Officer Dial shouts hands

in the air and drop the knife in the language of detours Eddie could never read,

circles like a skater on the ice of August around Eddie’s car, popping six shots,

shattering the ice of the window rolled up on the driver’s side, cracking the ice

of the windshield. The horn bleats, a goat terrified of the sacrificial knife,

and Dial yells to stop the horn, as if Eddie’s soul is stuck in the traffic to heaven.

The cops drag him out by two arms and a leg, and the horn’s heart stops beating.

They dig in the seat for the three-inch pocketknife he pressed against his knee.


The police chief in her white uniform announces that Officer Mark Dial,

who shot Eddie Irizarry, will be fired for insubordination, now that he

is silent as the horn in Eddie’s car, now that he is silent as Eddie. The words

jail and murder do not drift from her mouth to tap the ceiling at the press

conference. The department will backtrack to investigate the lunging

tongue, how the fable of the knife slipped from their throats into the air.


Eddie’s coffin is gray, rising on the shoulders of pallbearers in white T-shirts

that say Justice for Junito, like Junior, Eddie the father left to gaze at the black

hands he would bequeath to his son, who learned from him all the spells

to spark the hearts of engines, the smoke fading away like ice in August.


The newspaper reports that ABC’s Next Bachelor is a Tennis Instructor

from Montgomery County. At the vigil in the 100 block of East Willard Street,

the white balloons rise. Some balloons float the word Justicia into the sky.


Martín Espada


Martín Espada has published more than twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His latest book of poems is called Floaters (2021), winner of the National Book Award and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.