Saturday, March 12, 2005

Testimonial Distraction

By the tenth day, the mind comes loose. There was testimony. I think that happened on the tenth day. It's hard to be certain.

The Tenth Day

There’s little werse
When your head is full of stuff
You can’t think poetry enough.
Isn’t it a bother
When you’d rother
Be writing verse?

From In a Federal Courtroom, copyright © 2005 Richard Laurence Baron

Friday, March 11, 2005

Court View

Woman with Her Hair in a Bun

I always only see the back of her head,
The back of her neck, the backs of her ears.
The head moves up and down and back and forth
As her attention shifts. I always only
See a bit of oval jaw, an edge of cheek.

I see her neck because her hair
Is pulled into a bun. But I think it is not real, that bun.
Her hair, when down, is jaw-line short.
Too short to gather into such a shiny fist.

Her gifts to me, with tiny golden rings,
Are the backs of her ears.
The backs of her ears.

From In a Federal Courtroom, copyright © 2005 Richard Laurence Baron.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Ethical Question

Evalyn and I discussed the fact that I am still serving on a jury, perhaps for as much as another two weeks. She told me that some years back, she got a jury call for a New York City court. Taking the day off from her current theatrical engagement, she went down to the courthouse and was put into a pool of prospective jurors for a criminal trial that was supposed to start that day.

The judge, after briefly outlining the basis of the case, asked a critical question of all the jury-pool members during the voir dire. (This is the pre-trial procedure during which competing attorneys and judge quiz members of the jury pool to determine their fitness to serve as jurors in the trial.)

“Does any one of you have a problem with sitting in judgement on a fellow human being?” the judge asked. It was a good, ethical question, one that the judge asked each prospective juror to consider seriously. Several of the pool members raised their hands – including Evalyn.

One by one, the judge asked each of these people to come forward to the bench, along with the attorneys, so the judge could hear each individual’s answer. Eventually, he got ‘round to Evalyn: “Would Number 18 come forward, please?”

When Evalyn reached the judge’s bench, he leaned over and quietly asked Evalyn her name and occupation. “Evalyn Baron,” she replied, “and I am an actress. Right now, I’m on Broadway, appearing as Madame Thenardier in Les Misérables.”

The judge nodded, then softly repeated his ethical question. “Ms. Baron, do you have a problem with sitting in judgement on another person?”

“I do, Your Honor,” said Evalyn. “I really believe I’m not a superior being, so I don’t think sitting in judgement on someone else is right. I honestly can’t say this is something I could do.”

The judge shook his head. “All right, Ms. Baron. You’re excused from jury duty. Though I wish you’d reconsider and do your civic duty. Trials need juries, after all.”

“I just don’t believe I can judge another person. I’m sorry, Your Honor.”

“Very well. You’re dismissed.”

Evalyn turned to leave. But the judge called her back to the bench. She and the attorneys came back. The judge leaned way over his high desk, and speaking directly to Evalyn, asked, “Ms. Baron, can you get me tickets to Les Miz?”

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Art Feels

Evalyn asked me for another poem. A poet always appreciates being asked…especially if he’s not a real poet, but only a blotter. In any case, I was reminded of this older one because of a recent glass-casting workshop, so I offer it here.

My Patron

I did not get the ninety-thousand dollar
Brilliant blue convertible
Or run away to Paris.
I took a class in glass.
That is, I wondered if I had some art
(Beyond whatever it is I do).

Just a Saturday and Sunday
Cutting out the glass panes,
Listening to the sharp clean crack along the rollered line.
I laughed with everybody else
At broken pieces, shattered patterns.
I’m smiling at the lumpy tiles.

The awkward mirror frame.
Wrapped in paper towels,
I drove them carefully home to you.
Is this the way Picasso felt when Mrs. P
Cleared off her mantelpiece for Guernica?
I’m smiling at how fine art feels.

Copyright © 2003 Richard Laurence Baron

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Helping Hand

After the jury had been dismissed from court for the day, I was slow in collecting my gear. So the floor looked pretty much cleared out as I walked down the hall to the elevator – our courtroom’s on the 9th floor of the Federal courthouse building here in Houston.

As I rounded the corner by the elevator bank, I noticed a much older man sitting stiffly in a wheelchair. Without thinking too much about it, I pressed the “down” button. When the elevator arrived, I held it open, turned to the man in the wheelchair, and asked him if I could give him a hand getting out of the building.

He insisted he didn't need my help to leave the floor. But I chatted with him a bit, told him I’d be glad to be of assistance, and he reluctantly let me wheel him into the elevator.

On the way down I asked him if his wife was picking him up on McKinney Street, in front of the courthouse. "I don't know," he said. "She's still up on the 9th floor in the bathroom."

Friday, March 04, 2005

Long Courtship

I am still in court. The judge estimates that it will last another two weeks. He did not tell us if this fortnight's duration meant 'til the end of the trial phase, or included the jury's deliberations. I am reminded of Ogden Nash's famous "Kind of an Ode to Duty."

"O Duty, Why hast thou not the visage
Of a sweetie or a cutie?
Why glitter thy spectacles so ominously?
Why art thou clad so abominously?
Why art thou so different from Venus
And why do thou and I have so few interests mutually in common between us"?

Write. Send e-mail. Send benzedrine tablets. More later.