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Just Ice

A measure of justice
40 pounds weighed on the public scale
the child's eyes
look down at his heart for mother.
It's Charleston.  1815.
A cup of cool mercy
on the bare backs
dry throats

I wonder how, when.
I enter the courthouse from the hot sun,
the mercy of marble.
The line through the
metal detector
where we leave our knives with the guards
and take with us inside
all the forms of fear.

Each new day
a witness raises her hand
metal weights are adjusted
and a line solid and true
plumbs through the floor to the courtroom below,
and the one below that
and that to
the center of the earth;  while we
sit here and scoop with spoons
the mighty mass of the law.

We listen for:  a clear deep tone
look for:  a gesture
of something true, oh
bring me something true.
Line up the cookie jars
at the dining room table
the headless doll
in the mahogany armchair
the recently discovered bottles of vodka,
spinning on the table
with all the spent shells,
your napkins slit into slivers of silk.

Tell me now
what is the exact distance
between this flesh and that?
Measure it precisely, Justice,
in fingers, please,
in car lengths,
a hundred yards of football fields,
the field of all our possibilities
dissolving like ice
on the hot Carolina auction block
just ice
a trickle of spray paint on the elevator wall.

My toes spread wide
and I push all my bones
into the solid ice
where I now stand.
We must find the words,
get it over with,
make them up
say anything,
before it all melts
the pool of rights and wrongs we fight for today.

The drone of the docket
quiet curses
summer odor of
too many bodies in
too small a space
people with so much nothing
those with too much heart
those without enough.

Every case picks, slices, carves 
what we believe and what we
do not, in the
dry throat
summer odor of bodies
all the forms of fear.

Give us what is clean and true.
Scoop  marrow from our bones
Let our feet grow plump and pink,
Let them step lightly now
not to be sacrificed

to the cotton gin

the thresher.

"Just Ice," was published in Texas Journal on Women and the Law, Spring 1994. 

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