In the Grand Jury Theater, NYC
by Kate Bernadette Benedict

The victim takes an oath and testifies how just last Friday
he was whipped by a pistol--cut by a razor--
shot by a sawed-off rifle--bludgeoned by his own cane.

She relates that the handsome suitor yanked her hair out,
chewed her face, tore her clothes and executed sodomizing rape.

In English, in Spanish, in Korean, in Greek

she describes bedlam erupting in her grocery store--
her tavern window crashing--
the jeers of filthy hoodlums raiding his stockpile of beer.

In Arabic, in Farsi, in Chinese, in Italian

he tells that his car was taken out from under him--
his billfold stolen at knife point--her necklace
yanked from her throat so the skin broke.

A drunken bigot called him a friggin' faggot
and bashed his head into an iron gate.

A jealous boyfriend called her a filthy cunt
and slashed that part of her with a machete.

The wife was acting "wacky" again and jabbed him
in the abdomen with a paring knife. "It just missed
my heart. It just missed," he says, "my heart."

For four weeks
we jurors have been audience to these ordinary people.

They lifted their shirts and their skirts to show us stitches:
we leaned forward in our seats.

They told us: "I am now having nightmares"
or "I had to have a colostomy"
or "I can't sit down to testify, due to the pain."

After he spoke, a Korean man solemnly bowed.

We indicted his case. We indicted all their cases,
raised our hands like school kids hot with answers,
demanded what we could give them: a fair trial,

joined their company in street and store and stairwell
where we go onward with new suspicion, old denial.

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