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poetry Contempt of Court

We speak often in generalities of social justice, but California poet (and ex-lawyer) Anita Pulier gets down to the nitty-gritty in this small courtroom drama.

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Contempt of Court

By Anita Pulier

The first day of Torts we read a case
of justice denied to somebody’s Auntie
who fell on her ass.

A few years later I nailed
my diploma to the wall,
scattered magazines

in the waiting room, interviewed
a desperate, weeping woman
and with the intensity of a novice

adopted her angst, grasped her hand,
put on my sneakers and rushed her
to the court that had just tossed her out.

The weeping woman watched as I carved
a moment from empty space,
arguing, advocating, quoting, and citing,

until the judge cut off my lofty plea:
“Counselor,” he barked,
“you cannot come into my courtroom in sneakers.”

At that moment, I remembered poor dear
Auntie and understood
justice denied.

“Your Honor,” I stuttered softly,
“We are here as a matter of right, not at your invitation.”
The courtroom din stopped.

The weeping woman stopped.
A lifetime of seconds passed.
“Fine,” the judge growled, “next time show more respect,
      now get to the point.”

That was the point, I thought.

After retiring from her legal practice in New York and New Jersey Anita happily traded legal writing for poetry. Her poems have appeared in numerous print and online venues, in the anthologies Grabbing the Apple, The Legal Studies Forum, Aunt Poems and The Poeming Pigeon: In the News, and in Cultural Weekly, Focus: Poetry. Finishing Line Press published her book The Butcher's Diamond and three chapbooks, Perfect Diet, The Lovely Mundane and Sounds of Morning.

This poem was first published in Askew Poetry Journal