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Poetry

Jury Duty, aka, Running on Empty

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When you are selected to be a possible juror on a criminal case with 17 other possible jurors and listen to the info video (which includes lunch time from noon to 1:30) and then you are all gathered up by the 2 bailiffs to walk 4 blocks through the asphalt of downtown Tucson’s mid June’s searing heat wave and are asked beforehand if anyone has difficulty doing this walk and you are the one who raises your hand to state you have a hidden disability and will be the last leg of the journey but that you can do it so one of the bailiffs sticks with you during the walk to finally get to the courtroom after going through security twice and twice beeping, being wanded, having your red bag searched for liquids that do not exist unless they consider grapes a hazard to then wait in the hallway for oh I don’t know how long to find out it is a DUI criminal case and then the judge introduces the whole shebang, we are given our instructions where to sit and you are deemed number 7 as number 6 looks at you to smile and kindly remarks, ‘oh, I like your outfit’, which is a nice, cotton shawar kamiz with Birkenstocks and also tells you, ‘hmmm, lucky number 7, maybe you will be dismissed? then when it is your turn to answer questions from the screen you tell them your stuff including answering if you have a bumper sticker and you say, ‘yes, a U of A bumper sticker, Go Cats!’ As you side glance number 1 who stated he has a Trump bumper sticker while number 6 nudges you and grins and turns out to be your new best friend who has travelled to India a number of times, is a master gardener, and shows you her hollyhock garden photos, and you laugh and talk in the hallway about gardening and life because you’re not allowed to discuss the case as you all have been herded into the hallway to then have the judge and lawyers ask us questions privately, 18 possible jurors to be questioned with no break in sight, no water fountain, or vending machines either to then have your lucky number 7 be called and asked by the judge about your religious beliefs on no alcohol and you state it is your choice and you are not here to judge any one else’s choices even acknowledging the fact in Tucson there are Muslim owned businesses who sell alcohol to give them an idea that you really do mean it when you say my choice is my choice as it is for everyone else’s but the lawyers are confused by this, especially the defendant’s lawyer who asks you more questions including if you have ever lived in any country where alcohol is illegal and you are pretty much hangry at this point as is everyone else outside in the hallway and you ask him what does that have to do with the case cuz you know where this is leading, the middle aged white government dude is trying to explain my religion to me and paint me as a zealot or some such shit, and you’re tired of that shit from middle aged white male government dudes as the judge states the same thing as does the state attorney and you proceed to school him on what does he mean by lived in cuz I’ve lived in my birth country the USA my entire life and I’ve vacationed, visited a country (no name given) where alcohol is illegal but that doesn’t have anything to do with the case, now does it judge? As the female judge turns to you and smiles while the state lawyer asks more about this mentioning my ‘church’ members who sell alcohol at their businesses and so it goes on with a few more questions when they finish to say, ‘you can go now, thank you,’ then you get up from the witness stand and you remark firmly, ‘it’s a masjid, not a church, a masjid’ and the state lawyer says ‘I’m sorry’ and you reply, ‘it’s ok, we’re all here to learn now aren’t we?’ and its out to the hallway again to have the rest of the 18 asked questions with no break, no lunch when the court reporter comes out for another number on our roster, I holler, ‘when do we get lunch?’ and he replies, ‘I’m so sorry, we promise it will be soon.’ to which you tell your new best friend number 6 that’s a bullshit answer and number 6 says ‘you said what we were all thinking and look at all of us, so many of us are older, maybe someone is diabetic and needs to eat? Ya think?’ when number 18 is finally called in and completed we wait even longer to be collared into the courtroom and told who is on the jury and who gets to go home as it turns out your new best friend number 6 is on the jury and you and the bumper sticker number 1 trump dude and many others get to go home then it’s about around that time you feel your body is melting from the tiredness but you still have to walk however many scorching, asphalt blocks it is to your parking garage and drive home at a steady pace you’re so tired and don’t want to flub up then eat your honey sandwich, grapes, drink lots of water, do salat and then crash for hours while your someone makes this delicious kabob style meat patties to go with his homemade squash with tortillas and you go to bed after reflecting on the question if anyone has had themselves, family or friends heavily involved in alcohol to raise their hand as a yes for you to witness a sea of 18 hands in the air and take that as more emphasis on the hazards of alcohol in societies along with thinking maybe the statement of it’s a masjid not a church was one reason you were there that day but more importantly the words use of ‘choices in our lives’ you spoke as you looked into the defendant’s eyes hoping (niyat) those words were seeds of reflection to the young, black man as you drifted off to sleep the sleep of an old woman.

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