The judge, the bench
the gleaming courthouse, its clean hallways
and eloquent professionals, polite and neatly dressed.
The doe-eyed man in the defendant’s chair
has a shaved head, mahogany skin,
wears a brown Hugo Boss suit.
Seeing him come and go as he pleases,
you could mistake him for a millionaire
gold watch, slender daughter aged between girl and woman.
This poem is a question.
The state invites fifty jurors
to this performance.
only half RSVP. The others
have already acted in sad dramas
all too similar to this one.
“Who has the burden of proof?”
“Can you convict on the word of one person?”
Twelve are chosen.
Blonde with a face not yet lined by maturity
the victim was once friends
with the doe-eyed man’s daughter.
even the judge winces when in tears,
arms clamped over her chest, the victim
says the doe-eyed man put his finger inside her.
The doe-eyed man says,
No physical evidence.
Only a recorded phone call.
In the deliberation room
eleven jurors accelerate
from zero to conviction
in less than seven seconds.
Innocent until proven guilty –
so out of fashion these days.
I munch courtroom bagels
while the foreman fuels
the steamroller of peer pressure.
At night the tapeworm of rage
gnaws my brain. Easier to find
unicorns and lizard milk
than a fair trial. Still,
that suspicious phone call.
Why would an adult
tell a fourteen-year-old,
“I wish you were eighteen?”
The jury returns a conviction.
Look at the victim’s smile of vindication.
Look at the doe-eyed man’s impassive face.
Look at his daughter grimace and wail.
Now answer my goddamned question.