The criminal

The sentence

is to be delivered,

like an unwelcome call

in the middle

of the night.


The judge looks

with that familiar look,

eyes cast down,

in a moment

of justice,

words hanging

ready for

the expected call.


The criminal,

jaunty and daring,

weak and scared,

in a suit

he has never

worn before,

looks at the judge,

waiting for the words,

eyes averted,

eyes seeing

the judge’s eyes,

and mind thinking

strange thoughts

about a life not lived,

and the terror to come.


First here at 14,

this room and

those words,

about to drip

like acid drops,

are as familiar

as the desperate loss

and the unrequited longing

for all he has

never had.


He will be going back:

back to the cell,

back to the life

he knows and

doesn’t know,

back to the

steel boundaries

that hide his fear.


The words

begin to drop,

but he does

not hear;

he looks instead

to the window

of the courtroom

and sees a bird

land on a branch

of a nearby tree

and then fly away again.