Sunday, 18 April 2021

American Life in Poetry: The Forewoman Speaks

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.


Only 0.03 per­cent of us end up doing jury duty each year. But we all car­ry an aware­ness that it can be us next.

Accord­ing to casi​no​.org a quar­ter of Amer­i­can adults serve on jury duty at least once in their life­time. Kath­leen McClung’s poem reminds us of the cost of such duty.

The poem appears in her 2020 chap­book, “A Juror Must Fold In On Herself.”

The Forewoman Speaks
By Kathleen McClung

Among us twelve, just three have raised a child.
We’re mostly gray and promise to be fair
and wonder if the prosecutor smiled
to greet or warn, or both. We go nowhere
for weeks. We’re stiff and silent in these rows,
our faces stony though we ache to cry,
delete that damn surveillance video
(Exhibit A) that shows a girl, six, die,
night, crosswalk, SUV. And in the end,
our verdict signed and dated, read aloud,
we will resume routine—go meet a friend
for lunch on Harrison, admire a cloud
above the bridge, ten thousand cars an hour,
some backseats full of kids.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Kathleen McClung, “The Forewoman Speaks” from A Juror Must Fold In On Herself, (Rattle Foundation, 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Kathleen McClung and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2021 by The Poetry Foundation.

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