To Jose and Darnell shackled at the waist,
Houdinis trapped in a sinking trunk.
To their relatives who climb courthouse steps
holding pain like paper lanterns, helpless when
the judge throws away the padlock keys.
To those who swagger past the uniforms
moments from their brother's or sister's doom.
To the defeated mothers who spent two hours
on the bus in order to sit in a paneled
room and watch their sons go down.
To the pimp idling the motor of a Lexus
waiting for the suits to cut his woman loose.
To the guards who pat down weary grandmothers
passing ghost-like through metal detectors.
Move forward, the guards repeat, eyes empty of light,
empty your pockets, raise your arms, Ma'am.
To the bailiffs who call for order from
spectators so tired that only the surprise
of justice could stir any commotion.
To the City Councilmen who never set a foot
beyond the high gloss wood of the court room,
who never walk a catwalk, gag from the sour smell,
hear a 20-year-old sob at 3am when they rip off his belt.
To the officers who push boys into cells of muscled rapists.
To the guards in the pen who strip-search women
caught with four ounces of crack, Squat lady, squat!
To the prosecutors who bring their voices up
from way down in their throats and never move their lips,
who speak through public defenders who say, after five
minutes with a twenty-two-year-old facing an inferno,
Do you want the deal or not?
To the district cops who bring in the captives every bone
aching night, cuff them, ignore eyes filling.
To the detectives who interrogate, kicking chairs out
from under them, their mouths to the scum's eardrum,
screaming, You piece of shit.
To all of us, whose sons and daughters walk unharmed,
who can't imagine this.
Renny Golden's most recent book of poetry is Blood Desert: Witnesses 1820-1880 (University of New Mexico Press, Dec. 2010). The Hour of the Furnaces (MN: Midlist Press, 2000) was nominated for a National Book Award—poems about war years in El Salvador. Imprisoned Mothers and the Families They Leave Behind (NJ: Routlegde, 2005) was nominated for the C Wright Mills Award (Sociology Social Justice Award). She has also published three books on Central America.