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Sent to me by a Smiling Judge


By James Kavanaugh © 1979

(From his collection, Walk Easy on the Earth

The unsmiling judge with wet, flapping jowls, Dismissing the tears of husbands and wives, Spitting out consonants, rolling his vowels, Tearing out hearts and carving up lives, Slicing the children apart at their bowels, Believing that justice latterly thrives— Wiser than Solomon or blinking old owls— As long as his echoing edict survives.

The unsmiling judge with stern eyes of stone, Convinced that his honor will salvage our race, Rages at crime from his emperor’s throne, With history’s arrogance etched on his face, Applauding his parents and disciplined home Where all of the offspring emerged full of grace: “For that which is reaped is only what’s sown,” Then he nods to his clerk to begin the next case.

The unsmiling judge can relax a bit now While lawyers bow humbly like prep school boys, A touch of a grin unfurls his brow, Capriciously gone at the hint of a noise. He lowers his gavel and narrows his eyes, No Shah or Napoleon sat more entrenched, Political puppet whose whims govern lives, Who paid enough ransom to sit on the bench.

The unsmiling judge who decides in our stead That petulance lives and justice is dead. I’d rather be judged by the least of our race, Than the unsmiling judge with the arrogant face.


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