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The shadow of my father’s world

by Dana Labe


Tethered to the shadow of my father’s world
Lawyer’s daughter in her brand new job
I blunder in dark spaces beneath the rule of law

My father wore brown shoes on Tuesdays
His life was secured with thin cotton ribbon
First green then pink
A moral universe inscribed in crisp documents
That didn’t stink of sweat and fear

Late at night when I couldn’t sleep
The click, click of the dicta-phone
His careful writing and rewriting of reason

In the holding cells underneath the court
Multitudes of men gasp for freedom
Like so many dying fish tangled in a net of sundry laws

Justice is numbered in crude tattoos
Reason unravels without mercy
Crisp lines of argument dissolve
And spread an ambiguous stain of rage
On a Rorschach card that I can’t comprehend

A sweet note of marijuana floats high
Hopes of redemption more trustworthy
Than old white judges in bright red robes