Summer 2016 — THE POTOMAC

What is/ What Can Be

John Kryder

          for Bryan Stevenson

"The Child is father of the Man"
     William Wordsworth

The 10 year old boy
cc... cou...could ...dnt...sp... speak
Bryan laughed. His mother did not.

Our Supreme Court denied its own.
Alabama's courts laughed.
Laughter kills.

She said,
Tell him: you're sorry —
hug him.
Tell him: you love him.

No speech, like a coat
of mail, could protect
Jimmy —
before Bryan,
no lawyer
no money
no schedule

as no friends protected Bryan
from his mother's justice —
so "I–love–you–the–joke"
became "I–love–you–the–truth."

Laughter kills can be Gift–laughter
the boy spoke well.
Jimmy could not —
his stuttering silent past
Laughter killed.

Streams of tears
can deepen waterbeds,
break into firm earth,
erode clay,
move rocks,
break us open;

and tears can be,
like Jimmy's stream of love
for Bryan's care,
waters to renew,
to drown laughter killings.


Bryan Stevenson is Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. His book, Just Mercy, inspired this poem.

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