My mother often used to say

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Word ‘vote’ on cracked pavement

Jurors

I've never been on jury duty.
We teachers were excused, we thought,
in case some former charge of ours

might suffer retribution or
be sent away scot-free.
Now I find that's not quite true.

However it may be,
I've yet to be empanelled,
perched there in the shine of blackwood,

attending as a neophyte
to all those suave professionals,
so smoothly adversarial,

so Latinate and fluent,
whom centuries have wigged and gowned.
Thus it happens I've not heard

the halting evidence of sergeants
serrated by a silk.
I've never caught a prosecutor's

Shakespearean finale,
Her Honour giving last instructions.
I've never been sequestered with

eleven other human beings
randomly selected.
Along with them, I've yet to be

tested by forensics or
the fine points of psychiatry,
its double diagnoses,

and all the worldly vagaries
of crime-scene DNA.
The shapes of those blunt instruments,

the photographs, CCTV,
would variously appall us.
There is a doubt that's 'reasonable';

another one that’s not.
Together, we'd be no more than
the sum of all our dispositions.

That man there in the dock who would have
eyed us off for weeks
might find he knows no more of us

than how we dress or smile. He'd try
to read each sharp intake of breath.
With freedom or incarceration

equally at stake,
a flannel shirt or well-cut skirt
may equally deceive.

Outside, the world is certified:
doctors, plumbers, engineers.
We jurors find we also share

a certain expertise,
we amateurs alone who can be
trusted with the truth.


In the city of the fortunate
Stockholm

In the city of the fortunate
everyone, it seems, or almost
is tall and tanned and blond;

young as well, or if not quite,
then silver and distinguished.
It is the final day of summer.

Here and there perhaps a Roma
woman with her plastic cup.
Here and there a face or two

that comes from somewhere else,
darker, more remote.
Edged in on the fortunate

they too stand a little taller.
Is it possible, we think,
to be an honorary blond?

Fortune here is rubbing off
on almost everyone.
The budget is precisely balanced,

the government agreeable
and pleasurably bland.
The temper here is generous

but never quite naive.
Good fortune has to have its limits;
it's in the definition.

There must be minor sadnesses
but they are kept at home.
Out here with the blond and tall

they'd have no sort of place.
It is the final day of summer
with autumn still to come.


My mother often used to say

Although a country atheist,
my mother often used to say
she rather hoped there'd be a heaven
where one day I would have to pray

forgiveness for my voting record,
my sell-out to the 'other side',
by telling my large-looming grandpa
what made me cross the 'great divide',

become some sort of socialist
and join the Teachers' Federation,
to be an apostate and seek
a slightly milder sort of nation.

Was it just self-interest?
An issue of one's temperament?
A different brand of middle class?
Each year, that steady increment?

He died in office. I was twenty.
I gave his hand a parting clutch.
For all my mother's admonitions,
I don't think he would care too much.


Geoff PageGeoff Page is a Canberra-based poet. His most recent books are New Selected Poems (Puncher & Wattmann), Improving the News (Pitt Street Poetry) and Aficionado: A Jazz Memoir (Picaro Press). He also edited The Best Australian Poems 2014 (Black Inc).

 

 

Topic tags: Geoff Page, poetry

 

 

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Existing comments

Australia's best poet. Accept no substitutes. A sage of several ages. Onya.
Peter Goers | 17 February 2015


As a lawyer, former part time magistrate and friend of a defendant sitting through a serious trial, Jurors reflects the emotion from all sides. Brilliant.
Chris Chenoweth | 17 February 2015


As always, a delight to read your work
Sheelah Egan | 17 February 2015


Yesterday I finished reading "This House of Grief" of Helen Garner. Today I read "Jurors". Perfect.
Joan Seymour | 17 February 2015


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