Poems about rights abused in America
April 15, 2006
Living law/dim beacon
The idea of a living constitution
has the same forensic indeterminacy
as a committed dream.
I am content to trust this dream to the end
to have it fill my cup of hope all day and night.
I am content to receive its order
to hasten to obey without a pause.
But, the old voice sounds
unrelentingly in the chamber: Do not
The infirm musing of a perpetual dreamer
rising up with eyes wild for relief.
I am content with the terror and anticipation that
keeps turns by watching me:
Justice, once imagined, cannot be undone.
I live in law
wear its sound on my lips
hold my fingers in its sweat;
its sweat makes a river whirling with a foul smell
thinning my taste for its reward.
And, yet, I can hear in the rhapsody of its leaves and
Lord, what kind of litigant is this?!
Perhaps something I threw in this river influenced its
and that is very rare.
I have been left to think along these lines
to look for the abandonment of arcane unfairness
months after months.
burn up as a fading lantern
homage to the majesty of the absurd:
A muse easy to bear, Camusian laughter to
suffering's exalted well --
what single rule might break the dry spell?
Sometimes the unforeseen, the unpredictable
springs in the heart of justice
bending its way upward
again and yet again
towards a distant point
all unaccountably, into the strengthening clasp
of fresh now-born idea,
nearer to binding faith
than wild dismembering injustice.
When the far-distant element
of suffering humanity
looms out more clear;
the faint, far, complex notes of hope
its head moves near
and new flicks of justice's well
unfolds beyond the known.
Is there any new depth to this well?
Say, what is its true nature?
Quietly nature covers over
the dying bird and the dead rover.
If justice's dead, it is as though
a robin died beneath the snow
tucked away neatly, whose bright eyes
once stared with impudent surprise
at every tit-bit flung to her.
Now every season we must bear
to live without its whistled air,
for law lives beneath the Spring,
like a sequestered paradise
exiled from the steady hammer of faith,
a trackless rice field
ever trudging through groves of
crouching, unconquered territories.
Through the windy corridors of my mind
an echo reverberates relentlessly:
what I had not foreseen
was the gradual process
weakening the will
taking the brightness away
a war-time feeling
that limps and stumbles
and a heart that is dully bleeding.
Endless tear drops, heart forlorn,
these have been my heritage
in the toils of grief and scorn
I have won my little wager.
Endurance* is a monument, the splendor of
whose head a
crown of hewed thorns adorns:
A man of stone, whose faith has bled
his eyes look still
upon that beacon'd hill
where freedom, law and purpose
are fixed, yet flashing like a star.
A gloom of ancient city walls
has clouded its wings.
Oh enchanted universe
conqueror of earth's stadium
in your wild, singing glory
the faults you committed live.
Come hear my sharpened cries
surely, you can hear my note of crisis.
Ceaselessly I raise my cry.
My cry ascends and floats away
scattered by whirling winds afar.
* "Endure what you suffer as being a father's punishment." (Heb. 12:5b-7)
On the Death of Justice
Celebrate having known her!
Celebrate the knowledge you are privileged to share
her shallow depth and deep cold-heartedness
the seriousness that was ever there
the facade, the pomp, and pain.
Celebrate immortal knowledge
achieved by her influence
on you, your family and friends --
knowledge through unsavory remembrance:
justice is but a walking shadow, always whispering:
high tide! fresh bread!
And I have to yell back:
no pennies! prima donna!
In the tides of waiting
into the skin
of a great orator,
my breath moved the walls
my spellbinding speech
pulled the tides to the crystal of justice,
like a great fish in shallow waters
relinquishing the flailing tail
that propels the spectators
And there in the High Court's pool with sand sharks,
I moved like a crocodile
unknown to the whole tribe
waiting to treat me
like a little gold fish.
But this poignant instant
was mine to cherish!
Charming justice is thwarted by its reversal.
I sat and spat
as the DA did
his best to indict me,
like a servant of proud simoniacal* courts.
His vocabulary was not so good:
"Pursuant to this case your honor, there's some
facts, some background facts, which is that..."
I thought he might be looking
He was happy, sated.
The fine take of serious, mystery crime
had perked up the judge's attention:
There must be some dullness in him.
"What do you say to these charges?"
The judge asked me. Instantly I
thought of my visa surchages, and
the sense he wants to to DA's ship of
"Not guilty," I retorted.
By his infected look, the judge proved
his preference for my final word.
*Simony is the crime of buying or seeling preferment in the church -- or more broadly -
of trafficking in its authority in any way.
"The mockery of the chaff cannot harm the wheat." (Rev. 7:9)
The judges have scattered you
like a storm ripping through the field;
you wander in your still pulsing particles
and gather up in a vessel that
lets you relax.
You see, I like to collect things.
Thorns of Justice
It is late morning
the Sun's lying low,
The process siphons energy away
surely, steadily, without any remorse.
I watch the people at the court
inmates huddled in the restricted area
wondering what their next hearing will require,
afraid of the pains, the expense, the bad news.
I think of their hand cuffs,
the blood circle around their wrists
and migraines of the soul.
We all have rights that break
like organs quitting under pressure
resuscitated only by law's medics,
repositories of care for others,
bowed by the burden of the world
the disbelief in their remedy in their faces,
and on their backs the weight of consciousness of
Pilgrimage to court
I am not sure of justice.
What they have established ever since my ordeal began
is the correct pronunciation of my ancient name.
I have come to speak
to make myself a bridge
over the chasm between nations.
Unmoved by me, the law takes its measure
looking at another direction, saying nothing,
like cliffs against which
one can hurl his soundest voice -- and
never hear the fragment of an echo;
it is home to my exile.
At least I can forget
the self-undermining system and work
to turn the opala* and all
that matters of my name
Justice does not matter
"Suffering now turns to the splendor
that is in store." (2 Peter 3:13)
That is a way of putting it, wholly satisfactorily;
a pre-judgment conclusion in a new-born legal fashion,
leaving one still with the intolerable hassle
with words and verdicts. The judgment does not
matter/I care only for the process.
In the dim and weary witness of time
A New heaven! God's infliction on power's neighborhood
pouring out gratitude, for truth has eyes to see
through the soul's distracting lethargy;
nothing repels it, neither sin nor woe:
A busy temple's occupation, an old instrument
dropped at the feet of justice --
deep being that endures
from justice that disappears.
Say again and again
that you love the truth, like a cuckoo-song
marvelling you to a new awakening.
Remember never to the hills of law
without her strains.
Shop talk and discussion and the common bliss
that drills a new vocabulary of faith
in our speech acts.
A spark disturbs its cold:
dripping anger upon anger
call it a God's dare
flung at us ducking underneath.
Dazzled then, we leave
the long doubt annulled there whose
walls and ceilings grin at us.
It is no friendly grin either,
just the faintest flicker of smile.
And yet I hesitate:
something in this grimace
that wracks the season of justice's face
dictates me to wait
at least for a while, to see
how much the judge can achieve
by swining a punch at
the leopards of darkness.
Behold, justice is on the saddle
and rides mankind.
Query to the Court
Judge, clerk, lawyer, reporter, savior --
can you tell me at what stage
the soul of justice retires and
its wisdom numbed? Does any one time
the virginity of law's tolerance?
Can you tell me at what stage --
Judge, clerk, lawyer, reporter, savior?
The withered leaf on justice's branch
is teaching all of us a lesson:
this is not a bottomless pit
sudden frost pins leaves on tight.
The sign reads: not a Sisyphus tree!
Language of Law
The language of law is a cold net full
like a book of signatures
in a funeral parlor:
it thinks of you as a
frog lost in a swamp.
Yet, its rules are my allowances, pot full of soup.
The power that emerges from the laws
shut my window to melancholy.
Law is a constant chamber music:
you don't have to listen to their voices;
you could stop listening but cannot stop its charted plane
off to distant territories. They love peaks and mountains
and leveling the playing fields.
Musicians are accustomed to perfect scenery.
Living law drifts, foreign to its domestic doldrums
in a bundle of broken bones.
In this water everything is mean. The innocent
enters the river, he is washed away; it's a barbarous zone
thicken with loss of hope, brilliant, deliberate,
its utility is something other than itself;
you can survive the demigod only if
you can make it chuckle at
its own seriousness.
That's the one coal to smoke its chimney with at length.
People turn like robots to legal images -- moving
blood in tension, in swirls, with
promise of heroic blush. To win,
to dismiss, delivering a humming
weight against a rival order.
March to kill, big stance of warrior,
assert, target, and kill,
bursting artillery of canons of law, rifles in gear,
pride, right, blood and oil.
I have perceived much aesthetic beauty
in the honest oaths that keep our sights straight
like music in the whisper of autumn leaves:
I do, I do , I do.
Are we worth their merriment?
Merry it is to stand there
when duty to truth becomes paramount
sailing our spirits surging light and clear
past the entanglements where deceits lay strewn
From depths a wrinkled memory
floating forth a faded hope
bubbling feebly beneath a rough surface of
just ice, polished white by
thickly glacier of might
sinking titanic faith in its chorus of right
shimmering in a space void of height
below a blue sky of dry thunder and light,
You see, I want justice.
Maybe I want it for all.
The darkness of each injustice falls
heavily on my shoulders.
So many are wronged who don't seem to care,
casual, easy, they move in the world
as though unharmed:
Their substance is altered by the intravenous needle of
But I take pleasure in the faces
of those who thirst for fairness.
You cherish those
who teach you survival!
I am not dead yet, it is not too late
to open my depths
and drink the medicine of hope
that deposits itself quietly there.
Detached from treasures of time
shadowing forth subliminal thoughts
of infinite objects of justice
un-reconciled to substitutions &
flight of legal attributes
ethereal and transcendental
in commune with sensible incarnation
inclined to settle upon eternity.
In the garden of justice
Oh to plant my hands in this garden
to grow, to find a new home
in some beautiful
Kaveh Afrasiabi has a Ph.D. in political science is also the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview), Nir/North (NEPCO), and Infringements (Astro's Press). Afrasiabi's articles have appeared in Harvard Theological Review, Middle East Journal, UN Chronicle, Global Dialogue, Brown's Journal of World Affairs, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, International Herald Tribune, Asia Times, Boston Globe, Mediterannean Affairs, Central Asia-Caucasus, Eurasianet, Hamdard Islamicus, Der Tagesspiegel, Iranian Journal of International Affairs, Telos, etc. Afrasiabi has taught at Tehran University and is a former consultant to UN's program of Dialogue Among Civilizations and a consultant to CBS' 60 Minutes.