Thursday, May 22, 2008

Poetry: Arithmetic Lesson

This week the Oakland Tribune is doing a series of reports called “Oakland Homicide 2007.” The articles take a closer look at crime in my city from many different angles. To read them please go to

When I started working at the middle school, I immediately started to feel connected with my husband’s work as a criminal defense attorney. I knew that some of the playful 11 or 12-year-olds who would pass by my room everyday would eventually be arrested and thrown into jail. It seemed predictable that my husband, or someone like him, would be interviewing them before too long, maybe in five, ten, or fifteen years.

Because I was new to this world, it was sad to realize how much pain and suffering these children were going to experience or inflictin the coming years. Of course, pain and suffering often begets the same.

Lawyers must be cautious; they do not often reveal things about their work. This simple poem is a tiny peek into their world. The speaker could easily have been one of these kids' dads.


by George Higgins

I aint gonna do another 16 months.
That bitch expects me to take another pro-
bation; what’s she been smoking? Once
she gets me there it’s time to bend over so
what’s my choice if she won’t go…
I can’t be spending time up here over this
chicken shit. You know it’s just a slow
boat to the joint so should I just let her piss
all over me? And why can’t she give me low
term instead? It is low term says who?
I been doing this longer than you been…
Okay, okay I’ll take the 16 months to
shut you up. I know there ain’t no way I can win.
Let’s just get this shit over with. You know
how much back time I got, how much I owe?

No comments: