Issue Eight: Women and Justice
Reports and statistics and headlines tell only a partial story. Behind the Correctional Investigator’s numbers, behind the federal inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, behind the “I believe survivors” and Black Lives Matter slogans—are voices.
Because it’s 2015./ And there’s women in the cabinet/ But that might not seem so adequate/ To women in the custody of the state/ It might not seem that late for black women imprisoned at ever rising rates/ Positioned by the colour of her skin to be a criminal by definition/
“Tell us,” the parole board members had said in the hearing, in and amongst their hours of questions. “What do you think are the long term effects of the crime on your victims?” I didn’t like how, implied in their questions, we were his possession, his victims.
Let those who use it bear its waste, those who live with the wounds heal the land. We need generations to keep and guard our decommissioned mines and deep geological repositories. Beacons to mark where we buried our glassified thorium. Our mausoleums of light.
But she is tiny and powerful./ She is very good at what she does./ She barely has to think. I trust her./ She is sweet and rude. To the other pedicurists,/ she speaks suddenly, and seemingly angrily/ in their language, though she does not turn/ her body to them, and her body expresses no anger.
I wonder if I am too well / dressed for this. Should/ I still be in my pyjamas and / exhibiting ticks round/ the mouth and hands (early/ on-set of tardive dyskinesia)/ Will they stamp “faker” in/ clear black letters on my file/ and send me on my merry way?/ (would this be a relief?)
A homeless man shouted at me from across the street as I was walking with my son, “Bed bugs! Bed bugs! Don’t let the bed bugs bite that baby.” I wondered if he remembered that only a few days ago I gave him pocket change and cigarettes. He never thanked me.
He wants me to listen to/ his story, his pain, his ideas/ but not to mine/ He says, “You are cold”/ I open my mouth/ yes, a heavenly freezer door/ a sudden frosty wind/ where no words live/ then quickly close it/ mindful of my sweet preserves/ walk away
Pack your bags,/ All the wonder, dreams/ You’ve tied in rags/ Live with me now and oh, what fun/ No more girl/ Living life on the run./ Colored girl/ What do you say?/ Come procreate with me/ A brand new day/ This is good/ Where we at right now internal gaze looking out/ Let’s bow
When Albert Benoit answered the phone, I informed him that his niece had made allegations. “That filthy, lying—” “Mr. Benoit,” “bitch,” he said. “Mr. Benoit! Before you say anything else, please hear me out.” He sighed. “Yes Ma’am.” “I want to give you the opportunity to tell your side of the story.
I should have left when he stole from me the first time. I should have left when he knocked the wind out of me the first time. I should have left when he cheated on me the first time. I should have left the first time he chased me up the stairs screaming at me.
I find myself walking on ice so thin/ Ice too timid to expose what goes on/ Underneath the truth./ I tread lightly in an effort to placate your anger/ Your rage/ To mitigate that withering look you flash my way/ The one that lets me know you are not pleased/ And you are rarely pleased./
Years ago, my first real boss taught me two things. One. Listen to the boss. Two. Listen to your head and heart. In case of conflict between one and two, remember that God is watching; do what is right. Today, my head is aching with the sandpaper of forced retail smiles.
With my heart and eyes, I have a completely different view,/ The consequence of my skin comes in an entirely different hue./ Don’t you see? Although you represent us,/ We think very differently than you./ Because we see the world not through one set of eyes,/ But through two.