Daily Archives: July 28, 2016

Not All Homicides Are Crimes

“To begin with, not all
homicides are crimes.” That’s 
the first sentence I find
when I look up the word
in a legal reference source. “Not all
homicides are crimes.”  Legally

if a person dies at the hand
of another, that’s a homicide and
then a decision must be made
by some lawyer somewhere
about what to do next —

they look
at the body and begin:
this one’s a victim,
this one’s not a victim,
this one deserved it,
this one did not,
this one’s a murder, 
this one’s a manslaughter,
this one, this one, this one…

plucking petals
from bouquets of daisies
laid upon a coffin.

Even if they land 
on there having been a crime,

hoops must then be jumped through
to get to what is called justice:
the hoops are sometimes huge
and hung low
and easy to step through
and the lawyers practically skip on through
and the killer or killers are dragged on through
and there’s a trial
and some one pays, or doesn’t.  

Sometimes, though,

the hoops are small, 
are hung high in the air,
are greasy with lighter fluid  — and swiftly
the flames rise from them
and no one dares to jump through
the hoops or the flames;

the killer or killers
turn from victimizer to victim
and the victim turns
from victim to slug or thug 
and everyone involved bemoans
unfortunate presence in wrong place at wrong time
and sometimes they even call the killer
dutiful servant
or hero.

“Not all homicides are crimes.”
It all depends 
on who hangs the hoops 
and who has to jump through them.

Meanwhile, the petals
that were counted to decide
whether and how the hoops
would be hung 
remain where they fall
on the graves until the wind

pickes them up. They collect
in odd corners in towns named
Ferguson and Baltimore and Baton Rouge
and Winslow and Worcester and 
New York and Oakland
and oh, pretty much

everywhere.  They collect
and decay.  They’ve become sticky
and we are slipping upon them. There are so
many underfoot we can’t help but fall soon,

and if we crack open upon landing,
if we die, will that be
or accident
or perhaps act of God —

who will count
the petals from our
funeral bouquet, who will decide

where the hoops for that death
will be hung?