Twenty Judgements – Martin Harrison

The whole country’s littered with them –
gaols, courthouses, police lock-ups.
If I’m judged, it’s by sadness:
how much more to do, how much time gone.
If I’m judged, it’s through the loneliness
of all those deaths I’m still in grief for.
Try to avoid analogies.  They’re everywhere.
There are people for whom life itself is a prison.
Everything from speeding fines
to petty thieving – aagh – to hanging!
Everything from selling ice
to jewelry heists to Australia!
If you suspend judgement,
you’ll never discover the crime.
As Hitler knew, if you want to murder
a people, do it first with laws.
Only one Madoff is prosecuted.
Maybe a Mrs Brooks.  A few others.
The ass brays from its box,
The Ritz stays open all the time.
Poets don’t write from a place of judging.
All the evidence I bring is for you.
We write from rules, often to break them,
always to set up playfulness, a game.
If I judge language and, sometimes, style
it’s because all choices are to be explored.
Torture implements, weapons, chains,
windowless rooms – the tourism of pain.
After giving the lecture against prisons,
he went outside to find his car was stolen.
About the 1790s: they chose liberty.
We chose thieves and guns, cops, robbers.
After fires, weathers, down-turns, white-ants,
what survives are sandstone court rooms.
Under April’s intense, photographic light
there is no going back.
Shall we disguise the matter of judgement
by building stadia and art-centres?
At the ruined prison, we walk back to blank doors,
asking how did we start with this.