(Author's note: some observations from my recent morning as an uncalled Witness for the State)
Going to court in your home town is kind of like a family reunion.
That you dread.
The accents drop into your ear like old shoes slid onto your feet;
comfortable at first: they make you smile, but too soon you're sore from all the worn out places in the soles.
It's more than just a family reunion -
it's a carnival, a circus.
Where clerks and attorneys juggle piles of paper, affadavits and attaches,
and the clowns make themselves known by their repeat performances before the ringmaster.
Every good show must start with a parade,
And so this parade of people as order coalesces from chaos:
defendants, police, police, police, officers of the court,
another defendant, witnesses for the state.
The aura of the black-robed ringmaster is heavy in the room - though herself yet absent.
Name plaque and chair;
a serious chair most un-circuslike,
made to be sat upon at length and suitable to carry the weight of the judgment of others that falls so heavily on be-robed shoulders.
The garb of the un-robed on display is likewise telling in this civil service circus,
the concept of "Sunday Best" exists on a continuum
(let that thought take root, I'll wait).
You see, some folks avoid a tie and button down shirt
as assiduously as they seek to avoid a guilty verdict.
A polo shirt punctuating the observation that
a man who had the forethought to obtain a tie would likely have avoided whatever troubles brought him here on this day.
Others seems to have sprung from the womb
with full-windsor firmly in place,
decorative neck cloth as a badge not so much of office as state of being.
Especially the State Police.
The players confer and move
to a spectator the choeography seems always close to collapsing entirely,
yet the pieces and players all fall into place as the barker, no the bailiff holds forth.
We hear "All rise", and so the real show begins.
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I'm staring at the chrome steel bar,
the one over-head on the subway?
the one you use to keep from flying into the poor bastard in front of you.
I'm staring at the bar where it forms a cross,
lost in my imagination,
avoiding eye contact with anyone.
I wonder for the nth time:
How many species of germs are on that bar?
How many species did I make mine when I touched it?
How many species on that bar are my own, transplanted?
Do any of these words apply to my new hitch-hikers:
A disquieting train of thought.
Do they form germatic tribes?
Staphylococcal working groups?
Amoebic armies cutting wide swaths of destruction thinner than a human hair?
Are there microscopic civilizations awaiting the Coming of the Hand?
My imagination has been known to run wild at times,
hopefully it runs wilder than anything living on that bar,
or that bar over there which I gripped a few minutes ago.
It's easy to become concerned about this undocumented biological trade.
But I'm on these damn trains every day,
and I haven't died yet.
I retreat to a different space in my imagination,
avoiding eye contact with anyone.