If there were truly justice
at least of the poetic sort
perhaps Van Gogh could
have been born 75 years
earlier, and in Vienna
not Holland, so that when
he decided to be rid
of an ear he could have
offered it to Beethoven
neither of his working
in his later years. And
if a poet could arrange
time travel using his license
then he could just as easily
have made the ear work
for Beethoven. But
on second thought,
heaven knows what
the mighty Ninth Symphony
might have sounded like
if Beethoven had to listen
constantly to the critics.


The Rabbi always said that
the highest form of justice
would be to teach a man to fish,
rather than to donate fish to him.

The Rabbi in question is now
long dead, and in so many places
teaching a man to fish will only
enable him to poison his family.

We have laid waste to ouir world
assuming someone will clean it up
for us, and we do throw money
as our attempt at atonement.

So perhaps we should give
out brooms, and hope for the best.


When I was a child, a Rabbi told me
that I did have the ability,
to be used sparingly always,
to petition God for some good.

I filed this away with other stories
from the Torah, pillars of salt,
stone tablets, a flood worse than
the one that filled our basement.

At some point I needed something,
recollections are fortunately vague
now, and petitioned God in the most
humble terms I could imagine.

Nothing, happened, of course,
and when I asked the Rabbi, he said
either you didn’t need it, or perhaps
God was busy meting out justice.

I hope whoever was meted out
justice that day really deserved it,
because all the stories said God’s
justice was the end all of you.


Push came to shove the other day. At least that was my position, although some said it was more propelled, or at best a nominal thrust. When my face hit the dirt I was convinced it was a shove, if not a ramming or bulldozing. And I’m sure the other guy wonders if it was a roundhouse or an uppercut the split his lip. He might call me aggressive, a bully. He might say I provoked the fight. He might say many things. I’d just call it justice.


Faith, or is it hope, seems
directly proportional to the need
we have to believe in what
some would call a miracle.
In Hebrew the word for charity
can also be translated justice.
Faith, he says, is hope
with a Godly intervention
for hopes can easily go
unfulfilled, but faith lingers,
and isn’t given up willingly,
for even when hope is gone,
faith in a miracle remains
for those most in need.
No one seeks charity,
everyone seeks justice,
and most hope and
have faith that there is
in the final analysis
no real distinction.


It is incredibly difficult
to be a truly holy man, it isn’t
enough to inspire peace
with your words and presence,
you had better walk on water,
turn water into wine, heal
with the touch of a single finger.
You can’t simply stand up
for justice at the risk
of your own life and limb,
you have to wander around
a desert, carry tablets
down the side of a mountain.
You cannot be compassion,
you have to forsake everything
and be always available
for questions that have no answers.
It’s a real problem, since we
all seek to be holy, but no one
wants to do the hard work of it.


On December 14, 1992, a shooting occurred at Simon’s Rock College. At around 10:30 pm, Wayne Lo, a student at the school, shot and killed one student and one professor, and wounded three students and a security guard. His SKS rifle soon jammed and Lo later surrendered to authorities without further incident.


“In the matter of the People
of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
versus Wayne Lo, on the charge
of murder in the first degree
for the unlawful taking of the life
of Nacunan Saez, the jury
in this matter finds the defendant
guilty as charged, so say you
madame forelady of the jury,
so say you all of the members of the jury.”
Twelve “yeses” were echoed
eighteen times, most drowned in the tears
and the rustle of tissues, of sobbing
and of hands, daisy chained.
The cameras grind, encoding their images
in a transitory magnetic record.
Across the aisle, lined by officers
in starched white shirts, shoulder patched
Trial Court of the Commonwealth,
and the sports coated, buzz cut
troopers, they huddle together
and nod to us, slight, all telling
and we to them, a condolence for the loss
against which they have steeled themselves
for the several months past.
“It is the sentence of this Court
that you shall be incarcerated
for a term of your natural life
without the possibility of parole
in the Massachusetts Correctional Facility
at Cedar Junction, such term to commence
immediately upon the termination
of these proceedings.”
Life, no parole, then again, then 18 to 20
for Teresa’s shattered pelvis, shredded bowels,
the blood coursing out of Josh’s thighs
as he hobbled up the stairs, clinging
to consciousness as though it were life,
for the pin in Tom’s hip and the nightmares
and for all the others whose ghosts
come to them in their dreams, to them
comes Nacunan singing sweet songs of the pampas
his neck torn away,slumped
over the steering wheel,
and the mirthful laugh of Galen,
a hole ripped in his chest, cursing
“the bastard” knowing full well
those words would serve as his last,
as life and breath seeped onto the library floor.
And to him, he who died in the chorus
of yeses, unwavering, staring, fixedly
as the cuffs were pressed closed about his wrists,
to him, will come a thousand ghosts,
Sacco, Vanzetti,the others whose bowels
and bladders voided in the death chamber,
those who shriveled slowly and died
the death of time and were buried
in the same blue uniform they wore in life.
The scales of justice return
to their precarious equilibrium,
she smiles under the blindfold
while we chant the Pibroch
for all that has died.


On December 14, 1992, a shooting occurred at Simon’s Rock College. At around 10:30 pm, Wayne Lo, a student at the school, shot and killed one student and one professor, and wounded three students and a security guard. His SKS rifle soon jammed and Lo later surrendered to authorities without further incident.


The court officer
keeps a watchful eye
on the proceedings
and brings water
to the witnesses,
allowing himself
a smile only
during recesses.



It is odd discussing
a friend as history
sitting across a room.
He speaks softly
hands clasped in his lap.
Wayne sits impassively
as though watching a film.
Wayne smiles at the mention
of the hard core concert
and the jury understands,
as images of pornography



Fourteen questions
and three photographs
are the summation
of a life left
in a snowbank,
bleeding over the wheel,
the window shattered
by the jacketed slug.
No articles written,
no lives touched
no mourning, no pain.



A life in four movements
unfinished in mid allegro
the baton cracked on the podium.



Commonwealth’s Exhibit 29
a photographic reality.
the price of admission
your life.



Stare, you bastard
as though nothing happened,
stare with that damned
blank look, stone faced.
Did you stare as you pulled
the trigger on her
twice, then twice again
or did you smile, knowing?
Did you stare at the car
as you shot out the window,
though he never saw you, but
did you smile, knowing?
Did you stare at the couple
when you said get the fuck out
or moments later when you
pulled the trigger, hitting him
in the chest as he ran out,
the good, if foolish, Samaritan
or did you smile, by now comfortable
with the pressure of the metal bar
on the back of your finger?
Did you stare into the dorm
and see him standing there
with his roommate,
were you still, rigid
as you fired, when they screamed
or did you smile when you saw
first one, then the other fall
only to crawl off to safety.
Stare all you can, stare
at the bars, the walls
until you wither
under their restless gaze.



Day 4
brown tweed
same stare
hands still folded.



The trail of blood
ended at his body
curled on the floor,
the trail of tears



The ME is a
cherubic, balding man
a gentle smile
whose life is spent
explaining unexpected death.
Why can’t he explain
why Galen and Nacunan
are gone, why the laughter
no longer fills the halls
their tears, their joys evaporated.

Don’t tell how they died,
we only want to know why.



Say something, do anything,
twitch, anything.
You played football with him,
you threw him the ball
for the last touchdown
that Saturday.  How can you
now sit there, listening
to him describe your bullets
that tore his legs apart
and do nothing, say nothing:
cold, emotionless.  Is that
how they instructed you?
And when he told of fearing
he might die if he lost
consciousness, hopping up the stairs,
as the jurors recoiled, wanting
to throw arms around him,
to shield him somehow from his scars,
you did nothing, never moved,
just stared at him.  Were you
proud of your handiwork
as he looked at his jeans
shredded by the EMT’s  scissors
once blue, now a mottled brown,
dyed by his blood, or that part
which did not pool in the hallway.
How could you sit and see this
and do nothing, say nothing?



Day five
blue blazer
white shirt
same stare
hands folded.



Upon examination, I
determined that the wounds
were consistent with
the entry of some missile,
into the leg.  It passed through
one thigh and then the other,
and then exited the body.
We were concerned because
there was a marked loss
of function in the left
lower extremity, that proceeded
quite rapidly, and we were
concerned that the nerve
might have been severed
or damaged, so we explored
and debrided the wound.
He was quite lucky, all told,
in that the projectile passed
close to the major nerve
but there was only severe
bruising, so we believed
he would regain use of the limb.
It could well have been fatal,
a centimeter or more one way
or the other and it would have severed
the nerve or the artery, and he
might well have exsanguinated.
There are the scars shown
on the photograph as a result
of the wounds, although
I have not followed the patient
since his discharge from my care.
Jagged scars, blood red
cross his legs, his face
twisted in pain, calling meekly
for a painkiller, trying to move
the foot, crying and smiling
as the toes moved, and the muscles
stiffened, needing to be rubbed
and looking, saying to himself
why me, while smiling at others.



He spoke to me calmly,
we talked about football
the game on TV that night
and he said he had shot
two people at the guard shack
two more at the library
and two more at Dolliver House.
He said he would have killed more
he wanted to but the rifle
kept jamming and he had
to discard the clips
as he moved through campus.
He wanted to teach them a lesson
but what he wanted most
was to give himself up, he was
very concerned that he
would be hurt so I assured him
that if he put the gun down
and walked out with his hands
interlaced over his head
he would not be harmed.



Day 15,
blue blazer,
the hair has grown
white shirt, pressed cuffs
and the same blank stare.



The map of campus
sits in the front
of the courtroom
still, silent, peaceful,
the blood has dried
and been washed away,
the screams are trapped
inside the walls
awaiting release
into the night.



Criminal responsibility evaluation,
nuts or not, psychotic,
cold, calculating, drooling
smiling, shy, violent,
patient interviews, life
histories, friends, lovers,
Galen and Nacunan still dead
can’t speak on their own behalf.



He went to a Catholic school
and helped raise his brother
as his parents worked 16 hours
a day at the restaurant.
His father was hard, befitting
a retired military officer.
There was nothing remarkable
in his history that would
indicate anything abnormal
in his mental status.
He was cooperative, but had
a need to control the interview.
He promised honesty and told us
we needn’t question his veracity.
When we contradicted him or told him
we did not accept his story
he took strong exception,
that upset him, he wasn’t in control.
At most you could see some
indications of a personality disorder,
he had this tendency to be
a cold, heartless killer.



A maladaptive narcissist
who makes bad choices,
an off-center view, always
the central figure,
diminishing others
will full metal jacketed
.762 caliber military rounds
from the core of the SKS rifle.



In the world of psychobabble
it is quite often lost
that there is a mind
cold and calculating, smiling
when the jury’s back is turned.



There is a fine art
to the tying of Gordian knots,
and littering them
across the courtroom
but they are not always capable
of encasing the truth.



The voice of God spoke,
“Right the sins, act
as I have told you.”
What sort of God
would say “get the fuck
out of here” or is this
yet another new revelation.


On December 14, 1992, a shooting occurred at Simon’s Rock College. At around 10:30 pm, Wayne Lo, a student at the school, shot and killed one student and one professor, and wounded three students and a security guard. His SKS rifle soon jammed and Lo later surrendered to authorities without further incident. The people killed in the shooting were 18-year-old Galen Gibson and 37-year-old Ñacuñán Saez.


He walks in calmly
as though surveying the room.
His head is shaved as it was
a year ago, but he has let it
grow out on the top.
The food has been good to him
thick across the chest and gut.
The sport coat changes daily,
yesterday blue, today
an olive green.
Most of the time he sits
hands folded, stares
impassively at the witness
or pulls on his ear lobe.



There is a large map
of the campus, blown up
to show buildings and roads.
Where is the blood,
where are the screams that tore
through the night, the flames
of the candles, the tears.
Bucolic, black, white,
red, cold and dying.



She reads from the sheaf
of pages from the pad,
questions, each directed
none overly obvious
repetition.  Drone.
Harping on pin heads
dancing, words as projectiles,
in targets or shattered
on the floor.



The judges stare down
from the oak paneled walls
at the jury, the audience
those who gawk those
who were victims, or family.
What do they know of our pain,
our blood spilled, sitting calmly
on the bench surrounded
by dust crusted leather tomes
in which are stored
the blood of our forebears.



Juror number 12
sits with her arms
folded across her chest
and bores into
defense counsel
“don’t be nasty,” her eyes
warn, “we like him,”
the witness, “and
don’t like your bitchiness.
Don’t lean over him,”
her face says,
it’s impolite.



They whisper like pack rats
crowded around the desk
the hand motion of squirrels
holding nuts against the chill
none wishing to fall behind
or be lost, all begging
the nod and the smile.



How do you sit so still,
arm on the chair
their blood, still dripping
from your hands
their cries in your ears
drowned by your laughter.



The one eye stares
the foam wrapped ear
is poised
blind and deaf.



I sit and shiver
in the cold
that pours
from your eyes,
no ember burns
in the recesses
of your heart,
my collar cuts
into my neck,
the hairs bristle
at the sight
of the fingers
that drew the bow
and pulled back
on the trigger.



He smiles only
when the jury
is out of sight,
more of a snicker
in response
to a comment
from his attorney.
A shroud falls
in advance
of the jury
and he is fixed
as statuary.



He holds the gun
and shows them,
benign, although
appropriately black,
hardly a tool
that might spit death
in the night,
ripping legs, cleaving
chests, piercing head
tearing lives apart.
It was doing
what it was designed
to do, with mechanical
efficiency and stoicism.



“There are 5 to 7 hundred
firearms in my store
at any given time,”
some will give pleasure
others power, but all
may bring maiming
or death.



The U.S. flag
stands draped
over its pole, still
sharing, perhaps,
our mourning.



Administrative minutiae
clogs the bowels
of both college
and the Court.
Constipated, bloated
until the shit
explodes, peppering
all within
the target area.
Still he stares
and holds the pen
against his chin.



Words for blood
Words for screams
Words for torn flesh
Words for shattered bone
Words seeking reason
Words giving motive
Words for tears
Words echoing
off ears and falling
in deafened silence.



Day three
same green blazer,
beige pants, same
stony visage.
Screams still echo
despite another sidebar.



“I thought I heard
him call someone nigger
but he said he didn’t,
so I let it drop.”
He was always respectful
but somewhat quiet.
We got along all right.
He changed a bit
(at which point
truth yields to formality)
We later had a conflict.
Why would he threaten
my wife and kids,
what had they done?
Unanswered questions



Calm, another bullshit meeting
ding one student for burning a note
on someone else’s door.  Anger
for one gets dinged, I get a fine.
In your face, up yours, soon enough.
Escape and hide, he’s coming,
children down, out the back
and next . . .  and next



They are shown
captured on film
in two dimensions
still, not in pools
of blood on the cold cement
or slumped over the wheel,
the car in a snowbank,
brains on the window.