How long the trial felt. Seemed like years.
Watching the trial was like
watching the leaves of the Kamani
trees do their slow twist in the wind,
the sun illuminating
the undersides in a gathering of hope.
To fill the long hours,
I crocheted mechanically,
and winced at the words
each time they mentioned
rape, suspects, broken jaw,
an open but clean vagina.

I remember when my son once
brought me a plant on Arbor day.
The leaves were young, deepening
in green and I thought him good and kind,
my mother-soul trying to find evidence
of the meanness they accuse him of.

My Joe, did you really hit Mrs. Peeples?
My Joe, did you really rape Thalia Massie?
My Joe, in your goodness, did you really bring me a plant
that spread its branches
in translucent green sunbeams?

Were you capable of all this?

The green of a plant is a hopeful color.
What makes a rapist? Not the vegetation
around the boys who had purported
to have done the deed, the rustle
of the leaves and branches around them,
the breaking of twigs when
a woman is thrown from the car.
Yet, there is no evidence of any of this dirt
on her clothes or shoes.

I drop my crochet needles that rattle
through the November that is here,
in the sticky humid winds of our winter.
Inside the room, it feels
like hurricane weather
and the jury is finally sequestered.

I read the Bible and the newspapers.
The white people
in the gallery don't believe
I had been educated in the King's English
and look down on me.
I can feel their eyes
and their hand-me-down hours
like everything I own.
Second-hand, not green
and new. What's the verdict?

Hung, they finally say:
Impossible to be in two places
at the same time, wrong time
lines, inconclusive evidence . . .

And it brings something else
to the table, an emergent green feeling,
a gratitude to a handful of green, brave good men,
a greening of the "savages"
the Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Filipinos,
and us, the natives.
We all come together.

Talk story

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