The Courtroom, a Presbyterian interior,
dark wood, bland walls, the hiss and sputter of florescent light,
the hum of air conditioning.
We promised to listen, not read nor fall asleep
nor talk to anyone outside the jury room, a promise I’ve kept
The complaintant sat across from us, her fingers twisting in the telling.
Her eyes sweeping our faces, too quickly,
as if she knew not to chance the looking,
her body hunched forward, hugging anger.
The defendant sat to our right, a stone between the wardens.
We’d sworn to weigh the evidence but all we had was her word,
a tangled net of testimony with facts slipping through
recollections and contradictions,
her memories of hurt, the only essence.
Our foreperson stood,
pronounced the accused ‘not guilty’.
In those words
our tacit complicity.
The following day, I banked the cheque.
Under a roof of ice, fighting stabbing cold,
heavy clothes pulling me down,
my arms searching for sky.
Or so I fear on winter days
weary of others, I skate away
to a quiet place of untested thickness.
Hands behind my back, I hiss across the ice
imagining I’m Wordsworth who
‘in the frosty season
retired into a silent bay’.
Was he alert for traps of grass frozen in the crust,
humps of ice under fine layers of snow?
Did he note the subtle shifts of surface tension,
the hint of streams below,
or did he think only of the evening’s beauty,
of smoke from chimneys casting a softness
across the bay,
his confidence daring reason, his bravery
subsumed in knowing the groans of ice,
its sharp sounds like guns,
and the thin, deep cracks presaging danger?
Did fear, in the end, send him back,
the horror of being caught under?
I return to the rink and warming house,
relieved no one knew
I’d gone beyond the warning sign, driven
like him, by that ‘alien sound of melancholy.’