Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Everyone Please Rise


Jury duty. What an ordeal. But I’m glad I was called, because it gave me the chance to observe myself and others in a situation no one but the judge and a handful of the prospective jurors seemed to enjoy. In the end, there were three reasons, I think, that I was finally excused. First, my black attire and shaggy appearance was a distraction. Second, writer and poet that I am, I was distracted. I was distracted by the courtroom itself — the paneling, the lighting, the plastic water pitchers, Oregon’s state insignia, the box of tissue near the judge, and everything else that made up the atmosphere — colors, scents, sounds, my heartbeat. I was drawn to the gray and white clouds visible through the high, north-facing windows. Everyone, it seemed, was held fast by anchors, and I wanted to fly. Third, I didn’t appreciate the judge’s jokes. Many people laughed, but I never did. And I know he noticed, because he was a man who paid attention, and also because I wanted him too.

My biggest problem, though, was not the judge, or the courtroom, or my beard. As the judge and opposing attorneys asked questions of the prospective jurors — I was ushered in third and seated in the jurors’ box itself — I found it harder and harder to concentrate on the issues at hand. My way of thinking and looking at things is so different than that which was being applied. A juror would raise his or her hand and give an opinion on subjects spanning government, race relations, law enforcement, even popular television shows. By the time the person had finished speaking, I had little or no idea what had been said. And then, as the attorneys and judge would scan our faces, I could feel mine being scrutinized and misunderstood — for there was no way I could tell them how difficult it is for me to set aside my need for privacy and solitude; there was no way I could tell them that what I’m working on night and day at home is all-consuming, and that the very nature of the work itself is, with all due respect for their own talents, beyond the ready realm of their experience; there was no way I could tell them, because there simply was no framework in which such things might be addressed, that in the time it was taking them to mentally discard and manipulate the answers according to their need and benefit, I had visited my father’s grave and attended two of my best friends’ funerals; I had relived the birth of my first child, and heard the voice of my three-year-old grandson calling me by my nickname, Papa.

Several times, the plaintiff and I made eye-contact. Would I be able to help him? Could I be used? What on earth was going on in the head of so preposterous-looking a juror? His attorney spoke to me. I remember his pale-white skin, the veins in his nose, but only one or two words of what we said. Where did the others go? Out the windows, I guess. To the clouds.

The case, the judge happily warned at the outset, would take five days to complete. That I do remember. That, the clock ticking, and the feeling of my life as it drained out through my fingertips. Oh, yes. They knew. Send that man home who neither shakes his head or nods in our presence. Send him home, so that justice may properly be served.


Update:
“Everyone Please Rise” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.

17 comments:

nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

is difficult ... almost can not be judged in most cases, you think you may be put in the dock ...


I think that all the feelings that you felt very human

Stream Source said...

That's a potent description of a separate reality.

There was a time when I kept myself separate (and sometimes still do) but I've come to see it as a gift to be able to shape-shift in and out of these vortices. To experience 'me' within another's world so that I may posit my bit - but only when it feels that is what is being ask of me.

After becoming more practiced at this 'shape shifting', the process no longer exhausted me... no longer stole from me, but rather, it expanded me. After having learned how to 'bookmark' the home page, if you will, re-centering became effortless.

All that said, if I were called for duty and did this little shape-shifting routine. I too would be dismissed. Not for the reasons you shared, but because my feeling about the absurdity of what goes on in that "construct" would become apparent. Not through expressed cynicism but through the honest answers I brought from my world into theirs.

Thanks for this... it was a very inclusive, open, work of art ~

♥Jan♥ said...

William, I , as one of your biggest fans, find you guilty of always being the talented poet and writer 24/7, and this posting is submitted as proof! As I read your post, I pictured the courtroom and I felt as if I was there...case closed~~~

William Michaelian said...

Laura, Donna, and Jan, thank you. I think we are all on trial, and feel that everyone in that courtroom was responsible to some degree for the plaintiff and defendant’s need to be there. I met several friendly, knowledgeable individuals yesterday who, if my observation of them was worth anything at all, were safely oblivious to that possibility — just as I am oblivious to others. Ultimately, the absurdity, Donna, as you put it, is in the “construct” between our ears. Courtrooms, churches, and battlefields are just some of the outward, tangible results.

Thank you, too, for seeing “art” in this. The telling, and all that it entails, is how I survive.

Old 333 said...

William, that was indeed an artful telling. Although I am not sure about "the judge wanting you too". I was afraid things might get steamy there for a second. Chambers, and antics.

What a wonderful story, William! Like a shotgun loaded with the rock-salt of perspective, you defined and described. I really enjoyed that. I hope you get paid for this stuff now and then! You are very good at what you do. And thanks.


Peter G.

William Michaelian said...

Peter, thanks very much, and thanks for the vote of confidence. As for being paid, the books are there, but I suspect most people are waiting until I’ve died to buy them. The funny part about that is, by then they might be dead too. And so once again, justice prevails. As for your warped reading of the first paragraph, nothing I’ve written is complete until it’s been twisted by Mr. Peter Greene. I thank you for that.

Old 333 said...

Harharhar! (rubs several hands together) An honour to warp your woof, sir. And if I was rich (or even solvent) - I'd buy a book. Wait long enough, I might get there! So stick around...and keep writing! I am grateful for the entertaining and uplifting reading you put on my morning news-page thing plate whatever whammy-zoodle-Google thing.

Peter

Two Tigers said...

William, this makes me smile - we are kindred spirits indeed! I have been called to jury duty many times, and either been fortunate enough to be sent home because they had enough prospective jurors to pick from the pool, or made it all the way into the box for the voir dire from which I have always been dismissed on the first cut by the lawyers, most likely because I was paying more attention to everything else going on in the room and my fellow jurors and the universe at the moment than the matter at hand. One time, not trusting my luck, I approached the bench and informed the judge that the violent nature of the case would render me incapable of making an objective decision. Truth was, I looked at this man who had allegedly followed a girlfriend home and savagely attacked her, and was more frightened of my own potential sympathy for him than the violence of which he was accused. To judge anyone, and condemn them, and alter the course of their lives based on the superior ability of their lawyer...now that's REALLY scary. I'm not even sure what justice or truth ARE, much less how to enact one based on the nailing down of the other. And yet, here I live in a society based on this basic right...I suppose I must leave its upholding to others with less cluttered minds!

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Peter. Remember, just add water. But don’t shave with that thing while you’re in the bathtub.

Gabriella, imagine our juries made up entirely of poets and artists. In that alone, there’s a novel aching to be written. And, going by your experience, you’d make a wonderful character therein.

Anthony Duce said...

I enjoyed this telling very much. With me in a similar situation was chosen right away. Next time. I’ll grow a beard☺

William Michaelian said...

By all means. I suggest you get started right away. The fellow sitting next to me, who was also excused, wanted to know how long it took me to grow mine. I said I didn’t remember, that all I knew, really, was that I had let myself go and this was the result. Thanks, Anthony. At the very moment you were visiting, I was enjoying your lovely North and South street paintings. Beautiful.

Kiki said...

It's funny that you were probably viewed as disconnected when in fact it seems you were very plugged in.
There is so much that goes on in each of our minds that gets lost in translation but in reading your pieces I think that this is your artistry.

William Michaelian said...

Kiki, thank you. I’m just grateful I have a way to express it, or at least a way that leaves me with the feeling that I have expressed it, or suggested it in some small degree. But even that wouldn’t be possible without people like you, who are able to read between the lines and willing to meet me halfway.

rahina q.h. said...

an absorbing piece William. i almost heard you on trial and pleading your case in silence. verdict: i think you were found guilty...

William Michaelian said...

The story of my life, Rahina, and I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way....

Transcend Designs said...

Geez, where have I been!?
This was such a great telling William,
and isn't it truly a relief to have in your knowing
that you really don't fit in to this?
; )

William Michaelian said...

As a matter of fact, Brad, it is. But I suppose I suspected it going in. And I confess, at one point, when I heard the judge say “jury of your peers,” I immediately pictured a jury of my pears, in which twelve ripe pears were lined up in the jurors’ box. Sick, I tell you. Sick.