We are planning the funeral for Roe today, eulogies fully ready, for we are certain the death was slow and painful and now all we can do is mourn.
Some we know will not attend, Brown out of fear, knowing the eventual consequences of this loss, Miranda because he is already marked, hounded by those in power, an easy mark.
Sullivan may be there, happy that he can go after them again if they even speak his name innocently or by mistake.
It will be a sad moment, one we have dreaded of late, one we thought would never come and we will mourn our dear friend Stare Decisis*, stabbed in the back by those who vowed to defend him.
N.B. As you may know or have guessed, I am a happily retired attorney, who was taught that stare decisis should be sacrosanct. Brown is the landmark school segregation case, Miranda the much eroded protection for those under police custody, and Sullivan the case on defamation establishing a higher standard that plaintiffs must meet if they are public figures. It remains a hallmark of First Amendment law regarding freedom of the press.
Stare decisis is the doctrine that courts will adhere to precedent in making their decisions. Stare decisis means “to stand by things decided” in Latin.
The meeting drags on. Time is frozen. The space between a smile and a grimace is the edge of a fine blade and the width of a canyon. And you maintain the smile hoping it is not seen as the rictus you feel. Politeness requires a smile, your heart requires a fast escape. So you stay and tweak all of the little facial muscles to maintain the semblance of a smile. You don’t watch the clock on the wall, for it is only a source of frustration. When you leave for home, your face feels almost sore around the lips.
Ann Arbor a certain diffidence Butte born of three rum Collins Carmel the Gucci show windows Duluth darkened, foreboding Erie escalator rattle Fairbanks a sound coffin Grapevine grand piano Hilo the restaurant empty Ithaca seeking diners Jacksonville by the exit signs Kalamazoo conventioneers drool Lincoln and slobber Memphis over the ankh necklace Natchez girl cross legged Oakland engulfed in smoke Providence the ficus droops Rehoboth in the shade of the bar Salem laughter turning Toledo into controlled sobs Urbana highball glass slips Vidalia off the table edge Wausau and falls Xenia dropping slowly Yuma through the night Zanesville into sleep.
Linking things is a human need, tenuous forces barely holding across synapses easily broken or lost, never to be replaced.
Ithaca is forever joined with Galway City, and I still have not figured out how to get the two people together as together is obviously what they should be.
She sits at a small table in the Commons, staring, waiting perhaps for a writer or lover who may be both, to come down from Cornell and join her, while Oscar waits patiently on a marble bench, hat by his side, telling Eduard of the woman he expects to arrive, trying to determine how to tell her that her friendship means everything, but it can be nothing more than platonic.
In my world they meet, she listens, fights back tears and promises always to be there, friends frozen in time and bronze.
Along the banks of the barge canal in the village park, a man older, his hair white, almost a mane, sits on the breakwall feeding Wonder bread to the small flotilla of ducks. Tearing shreds of crust from a slice, he casts it onto the water and smiles as they bob for the crumbs. He tells them the story of his life as though they were his oldest friends. My Anna, he says, was a special woman, I met her one night in the cramped vestibule of an Indian take away in London during a blackout. We heard the sirens and then a blast, not far off. She grabbed my arm in fear. She was from Marlow-on-Thames, she lived in a small flat in the Bottom, she worked days in a millinery, and at night tended bar at the Local, until the war. She’s been gone two years now and I miss her terribly especially late at night. A goose slowly swims over awaiting her meal, she looks deeply into his eyes. How are you, dearest Anna, it is not the same without you late at night when the silence is broken again by the sirens.
First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021