at jury selection they asked me


at jury selection they asked me
do i believe in the death penalty—
i said i believe
that the milky way
is a speck of floating color
in the eye of a carolina wren
in my own back yard
that i am
both in that bird and outside that bird
watching it flit
from branch to twig
with all of my reality inside it—
i told them i believe
the big bang
is the fart of a rat
startled by a terrier in god’s granaries
that the anemoi arouraios
struck the flint
that lent the spark
that grew eternity from nothingness—
so, no, i told them
i do not believe
in the death penalty
any more than i believe
in the death bonus
any more than i believe
in death
we are beyond death
all immortal
all unreal
all staring at our tummies
when we should be
looking in the eyes of those we love
should be listening to the cosmic frequency
that plays below our breathing
i turned to the defendant and said,
you can go
he got up and went
no one stopped him
then a carolina wren swallowed the courthouse
i sipped sweet tea in my back yard
following his jump from twig to branch
inside, outside
in early spring
with just a trace
of malt and rat
in the air

—Don Whittington



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