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A Journal of Haibun & Tanka Prose
Bob Lucky, General Editor & Ray Rasmussen, Technical Editor
January 2020 Vol. 15 No. 4

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Janet Lynn Davis

Voir Dire

Lady Justice—
with one hand she holds
a sword,
with the other a balance,
their weight on my shoulders

I didn't initiate our conversation. The prosecuting attorney did, once we we'd left the courtroom and he'd thanked me for my time.

"The defense attorney struck you off his list because you made him squirm," he told me.

I assumed the prosecutor was referring to my responses to a couple of specific questions. How would I feel about acquitting a convicted murderer in a retrial awarded because of a legal technicality? And after hearing my answer to that question: Did I not believe in following the law?

The prosecutor, a towering individual whose eyes were fiery as Lucifer's, kept talking to me in the lobby. "The defendant really is guilty, you know." He filled me in with a few gruesome, unasked-for details, such as the way the felon had used a knife to meticulously cut up his victims' bodies.

words like hail
ping off this hard bench,
grazing me . . .
once the storm's over
I think I'm impervious

The luster of youth still had a faint grip on me back then, twenty-five years ago. For a good two hours, the opposing lawyers grilled me to determine if I'd be an acceptable juror for the prospective new trial. I stood straight and resolute at the wooden witness stand. The infamous defendant, a death-row inmate for the past decade, faced me the whole time from ten or fifteen short feet away.

I remember nothing else from my interrogation that afternoon. Nothing other than the convict's pallor, the cuffs wrapped around his wrists, and his vacant gaze.

I push open
the old hallowed doors
of the courthouse
a blast of heat on my face . . .
ah, it's only the sun


Author's Note: Voir dire is a legal term referring to an oath "to speak the truth." It also refers to an examination of potential witnesses or jurors.


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