Jury Duty Reflection #2
“You Know You Gonna’ See My Face”
By Jane Tawel
May 19, 2022
You know, Juror Lady?
When I first saw you in the seat,
and you let your eyes meet mine,
just that one brief time, and I said, in my head,
“Praise the Lord!” she is lookin’ right at my face,
and no one else in that place did that, you know?
Avoidance of the eyes is the order of the day.
Cuz’ just seein’ me there, everybody is aware,
I must be guilty, right? their consciences don’t put up any fight.
But I could tell yours did. I could tell you knew sin.
And though you knew it was your civic duty,
you felt it like a weight, so heavy duty,
to be sittin’ there tryin’ for size your discrimination,
in honor of your nation, but that’s the same nation,
that’s always kept folks like me in our station, yeah?
So how can you judge me, you had to ask,
I could tell you thought it was a heavy, heavy task.
And when all the others thought I bowed my head in shame,
as the judge read out my name,
I could tell you thought, “well maybe he is offering a prayer.”
And I could tell you cared just by the way you also bowed your head.
It was a mighty dread, wasn’t it? — that feeling you and me had?
But don’t you leave here today after the clerk had her say,
and after all these weeks, you are lookin’ pretty meek
and those tears in your eyes, well in the end you had to surmise, right?
And though you put up a fight, hey, now you getta’ finally leave this place,
and you think you won’t ever have to see my face, no more, once you walk out that door.
Well surprise! Tonight, when you try to sleep, and tomorrow before sunrise,
even before you open your eyes, you’ll remember our shared glance,
and in your mind, you’ll see my countenance.
And I will sear it, you will always be near it.
And though you try to erase,
You won’t ever forget, this face, Juror Lady.
You won’t ever forget me.
You know every night when you go to bed,
the last thing you see is gonna’ be my face.
And when you finally wake up,
to your coffee pot, and your shop, shop, shop,
and all your this and that and your smallish what-not –
you know when you aren’t lookin’ in the right place –
well you know outta’ no where —
you gonna’ see my face.
You’ll be asking yourself, “Why didn’t he say a word?”
You went ahead though, and clipped my wings,
And now I’m nothin’ but a jailbird, another one of 2 million
that are locked up, outta sight, outta mind, mosta them of my kind, ya’ know?
Oh, yeah, allota us pulled the crime, so you did what you hadda do,
But didn’t you ever think — well maybe so did we?
And now I see you in my dreams thinkin’
“Hey, I did my best”.
Now you just gonna try to let the case rest,
but you still askin’ yourself, “Did I do enough?”
Now you keep on harpin’ on the clues, like you some kinda Blues Clues, ya know?
Did you really have the proof or
will you lie awake wondering if you goofed?
You know everybody else on that jury, well, they claimed
they got the stuff —
but your heart — it wasn’t tough enough.
You know you will be bleeding,
asking yourself if there was any cheating
on the things the police said, oh, yeah,
I gonna be stuck in your head.
Don’t you wonder where my mama is?
Or who’s gonna take care of my kids?
And the defense didn’t have his biz-ness
together, man, he had no plan
to try to save me from the man, right?
And what about the circumstances you never heard?
Don’t you find it a little absurd
That all you gotta say, is “I think so”
and bam, wham, thank you ma’am, in the drink I go?
You think ya’all so smart,
so intelligent with your high school and college degrees.
Sleeping like babes at night,
— nighty night, you lay yourself down with ease.
The only thing I ever laid down is the gauntlet for my boys.
And I learned the lessons of the hood
when I still shoulda’ been playin’ with ma’ toys.
I went to school on the G.I. Bill — “Gangster Institute”, man!
Yeah. You know I didn’t have no plan!
My life was a carousel of ups and downs.
I got nothin’ from you clowns, and
by fortune I was bought, by the ‘hood I was taught.
And now I face a hell –
Only cuz I was caught.
Man…. You think?
Cuz what is so damn wrong in all of this,
is that til now what I did with my life, no one cared.
You know, no one gave a shit about whether I was worth repair?
Now they just gonna’ throw me into there and throw away the key.
And you know? When you wake and try to get rid of the image of me —
You think then, you gonna feel free?
And forget all about me? — won’t rehabilitate —
I’m telling you straight.
No matter how long I’m in attendance,
what you gave me is a life sentence.
Even if I get out, I’m down the spout.
But although even my kids and mama and the friends who took me there,
won’t care, I’ll lay my bet,
Juror Lady, you won’t forget.
You won’t ever forget me.
You know, you gonna see my face.
You sat with those eleven folks,
and they had the nerve to be eating cookies, telling jokes.
And some of them had took one look at my race,
and couldn’t wait to set the pace,
of your deliberations, hating on their race relations,
and sitting, mighty in numbers in the back room,
Did you know — man, that was what my gang did for me?
A gang of twelve is a mighty thing.
There’s a power in a gang,
Yeah, now you know, what it is to hang,
and you feel release when you “bang, bang”,
like you felt when the judge bang banged her gavel, metaphorically,
bang banging me.
You can’t wait to be released.
And though our weapons of choice were different,
Just like me, you got swept in the current.
And alla them others of the gang of twelve felt so easy,
“He is nothing like me, I vote, Guilty!”
I wouldn’t even mind their hating me
if the world would just rehabilitate me.
And Lady Juror, you ain’t purer than the others,
But I could see you earlier in the row,
thinking with your heart, thinking, “I don’t know.
Is it fair to judge another, in this day and age?
And to lock him up forever in a cage, with no hope of getting’ better?
Is that the law or is that the letter?”
And I could tell, you feel me?
You had for the defendant, anxiety,
Cuz what is wrong is our whole society. You know I’m true.
But I can’t let you or your tears move me, little missus,
Cuz this is the witness,
I did what I did to survive,
just to stay alive in that place.
So now, if you put me down, send me to the hard cot,
where I will fester more and finally rot,
and for most that is the end of dealin’ with me,
but you know, Juror Lady,
you get to keep one special memory —
It’s gonna be a long time, you and me.
Oh, you all reading this, you think I’m taking up too much space?
What’s different, then? Nothin’.
You all always have thought “my kind” take up too much breathin’ space, don’t you?
Well, get back in your SUV, and walk careful with your mace,
And don’t think about me, cuz you didn’t see it, you don’t see shit,
(Oh, does my phrasing make you uneasy? You getting’ a little queasy?
Well you keep your piety and your easy society.
But in the cell there ain’t a better word than “shit” to describe this hell.)
But Juror Lady came and saw me. I know at least, she saw me.
And even if I gotta pay, and yeah, someday, yeah, we all gotta pay.
And man, I won’t see another free day, for a long while,
I won’t see my baby’s first smile, but, Lady Juror,
You might forget the details of my case, but
Don’t you think I won’t leave a trace,
Cuz’ you’ll forever see my face.
And night after night, Juror Lady #9,
after on tofu and organic greens you have dined,
you will now you lay you down to sleep and pray the Lord our souls to keep,
and you will lie awake, your prayers dry, and wonder,
“Did I get it right?” Did I?”
Did you take all the pieces of me, and put the pieces of the puzzle,
together right? Cuz you just might
of got it wrong.
Cuz you will ask yourself again and again,
for a kid without no kin, but the gang,
Well, how do you expect to feel my pain?
Yeah, when I was arraigned,
did anybody bother to obtain,
the whys and wherefores of all that was profane,
in my world? Isn’t my world, too, meant to be holy and sublime?
I mean, come-on?
Can you prove I did the crime?
Prove without doubt?
Or did you just get burnt out from having to stand out,
while eleven swore to heaven, they were sure?
Hey, I ain’t pure, but please…
Did I even have a prayer in life?
It isn’t burden of proof you should have entertained,
but ‘member how you felt inside yourself again and again —
that you could feel my pain? Oh, you became my pain. Oh, you and I gonna spend a lifetime,
feelin’ now my own pain.
But you sealed my fate,
and you will find in time,
and in the unguarded, no parole spaces
in your mind —
You’ll be seein’ my face.
Look hard, look long, take a good long last look —
Do you see me?
Really see me?
Cuz you know in your deepest soul’s place,
You will never not be able
no — you will never forget my face.
But you know, much as you hated to,
Much as you hated you —
You had to look away from my face and you had to say:
See ya’, Number 9.
See you time and time and time again,
And you will never be sure if what you saw and heard,
was enough to put me at that place,
but one thing you do know,
you know you gonna’ see my face.
You will look every day in your own mirror
and you know, much as you hate to,
much as you hate you,
You will look at your own face and you will have to decree:
© Jane Tawel, May 2022