Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kitty Genovese (Poem)

Kitty Genovese

Stalked and stabbed not
once but more

than twice, her Please help
me! heard in Queens,

and interrupted,
the lights going

on off on as she was
seen to stumble

before the next strike,
when the one call

made came too late
to make a difference.

Who in Kew Gardens
might have held out

in doubt turned
a blind eye, afraid

to get involved.
She was their neighbor,

just 28, and dying a year
after she'd moved

in, her bad luck
to catch the look

of Winston Moseley,
the guy from Ozone Park

cruising down Austin after
hours in a white Corvair.

What's said to have taken
place, what might have

occurred, who saw it all
and acted, or didn't, how

the story made it
to The New York Times

and went viral, never was
exactly what anyone claimed

the night of March 13,
when Kitty smiled —

she had a great smile
for the very last time.

© 2012 Maureen E. Doallas

Last week marked the 48th anniversary of the infamous March 13, 1964, murder of Catherine "Kitty" Genovese. What might have been remarked upon as just another grisly killing in Queens met with extraordinary public outrage and armchair-psychology when it was reported that at least 38 people had heard or seen something and done nothing the night the 28-year-old was stabbed repeatedly. Not yet 12 at the time, I well remember the news stories and still get a chill reading about it. When The Learning Network at The New York Times ran a feature on March 13, 2012 (see link below), I had to piece the story, some of the facts of which remain in dispute, into the poem I've posted here.

If you weren't around when this case hit the newspapers, read "March 13, 1964 | New York Woman Killed While Witnesses Do Nothing", The New York Times, March 13, 2012; "Kitty, 40 Years Later", The New York Times, February 8, 2004; and "37 Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police; Apathy at Stabbing of Queens Woman Shocks Inspector 37 SAW MURDER BUT DIDN'T CALL path of Victim: Stabbler's Third Attack Was Fatal", The New York Times, March 27, 1964.

Also Of Interest


Glynn said...

I wasn't yet 13, but I remember reading and hearing about it. Some commentaotrs mark this death as the beginning of the time when New York City was no longer the qwonderful place to live it had been - the murder and the apathy said something had changed.

Ruth said...

I wonder if things have changed, even in NYC. A chilling story and poem, Maureen.

S. Etole said...

The heartache of this is tangible through your words.

Timoteo said...

I remember this story. Yes, we look back at it now as the symbolic beginning of the age of apathy--the "I Don't Want To Get Involved" generation.
Now, it probably wouldn't even make a ripple in the news.

Pat Hatt said...

Never even knew, that many people saw? wow that is just sad. Great write.

Brian Miller said...

this story just turns my stomach...to think of all those not doing anything...but i imagine it all the easier to happen this day and age...

Anonymous said...

i had not heard of kitty, until now.

i did hear a piece on opb radio in the car today, about how a certain type of community garden can actually form community.

Unknown said...

I remember this story from my childhood. Even as an 8 year old I was shocked at the indifference people displayed. It stayed with me for years and it would crop up in my conversations as a teenager when I inveighed against the ills of modern society. You retell it so objectively, yet revealing the humanity of the victim, whose memory should always be invoked in tender terms.

Unknown said...

I remember this story still. It shocked even my 8 year old mind. I used it for years when, as a teenager, I inveighed against the ills of modern society. You retell the story with such humanity and compasion, a loving tribute to a person whose memory must always be celebrated as an individual and not a statistic.

Buddah Moskowitz said...

As a sociologist, I've studied the Kitty Genovese murder as an example of social alienation. This is the first time the humanity of this tragedy was brought to my heart. Sublimely good.

Zoe said...

How awful! And how much further have we come? Or rather gone. Great poem on a very emotive subject.

Rob Mustard said...

I, too, remember this chilling case, which told us more than we wanted to know about ourselves. What I really like is the staccato rhythm of the lines, which for me mimic the violence of the experience you describe, not easy to write so convincingly, to make the rhythm of the language reinforce its meaning.

Mark Butkus said...

I wasn't around but I picked up pieces of the story throughout the years and now know the story well. Thank you for sharing this story in poem.


Mark Butkus

Marbles in My Pocket said...

Excellent write, Maureen!