Excerpt from "Defacing the Monument"
The words “economic,” “family,” and “asylum” remain unspoken as I sit in the back of the courtroom scribbling on a legal pad, trying to structure a context and trace my relation to the seven men who stand before the judge shackled at the wrists, waists, and ankles.
Reader, can you improvise your relation to the phrase “illegal entry,” to the large seal of US District Court, District of Arizona, that hangs above the judge, eagle suspended with talons and arrows pointing?
Perhaps your relation stretches like a wall, bends like footprints towards a road, perhaps your relation spindles and barbs, chollas or ocotillos, twists like a razor wire on top of a fence.
Perhaps you do not improvise, perhaps you shackle, you type, you translate, you prosecute, you daily wage, your mouth goes dry when you speak—paper, palimpsests of silence, palimpsests of complicity and connection never made evident on the page.
Write down everything you need. How long is the list?
Sleep with it beneath your head, eat it, wear it.
Can you use it to make a little shade from an unrelenting gaze?
Speak into the court record the amount of profit extracted from such men as those before the judge shackled at the wrists, waists, and ankles not limited to the amount of profit that will be extracted from such bodies through the payments that will be made per prisoner per day to the Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, but also inclusive of all the profits generated by trade agreements that makes labor in the so-called developing countries so cheap.
Best of luck to you, the judge says.
Que le vaya bien, the lawyers say as the men begin their slow procession out of the courtroom in chains.
And in that moment, from the back of the courtroom, we can decide to accept or forget what we have seen, to bear it, or to change it
because we love it, we want it, we don’t care enough to stop it, we hate it,
we can’t imagine how to stop it, we can’t imagine it, we can’t imagine.
From Defacing the Monument (Noemi Press, 2020). Copyright © 2020 by Susan Briante. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.