My god, a warrant
from 1984, he says,
issued by Judge Krim,
who died several years ago,
and the reporter was –
wait a minute, the reporter
was none other than
The court officers,
all younger than me,
gather around, amazed.
I don’t know whether to be proud
1984, I think:
heroin was king,
crack was coming in.
A strange word called AIDS.
Soviet Union downfall hadn’t happened yet.
Internet was just a word going around.
I was with Kim,
thought we would be together forever.
His lawyer says my client
amazingly remembers you.
from 30 years ago, Mr. Reporter,
do you remember him?
I actually don’t.
So many people coming through
the system over the years.
Like my high school teacher who said
it takes him several minutes
to recognize anyone,
so many he has taught.
Imagine, the busiest court
In the world
but through that moment in 84
we are forever linked!
I look at him,
a ruddy-faced man with glasses
and a sweatshirt that says
So much has happened:
rumbles down the avenues,
water under the bridge,
friends and lovers passed on
to the great courthouse in the sky,
a son in college that was once
a glimmer in my eyes,
I wonder if this guy has a wife and kids,
the only common denominator
being that I have always
worked here, day in and day out.
sometimes it was a a refuge coming here,
sometimes it was a burden.
What is he in for,
what brings him here,
The judge wonders too.
“You have a charge dating back
to 1984, Mr. Rodriguez.
That was a long time ago.
Mr. Butters must have had
a full head of hair then.“
That’s true, I think.
Fortunately, Bette doesn’t seem to mind;
Bette, unlike Kim, who left me
in 87 for someone she found sexier).
And speaking of changes, after Mayor Koch
came the regimes of Dinkins and then Giuliani,
each with their own names on the buildings and highway signs
presiding over the same damn system of doing things,
So much has happened
to me, and, no doubt,
“Mr. Rodriguez, what is new?”
the judge continues.
Though, after further shuffling through
the papers, discovers he has been
out of trouble since then.
“I see you have been working,
What brings you back
to our wonderful building,
a thirst for justice?”
the judge asks,
“Or simply to revisit
our smiling faces?
Maybe a nagging feeling
that maybe you had
He laughs, we all laugh.
“I just wanted to get things right”,
Upon further prodding,
the plot thickens.
Left NY in 88,
met a woman, found a job
he needed like a hole in the head,
raised two kids, never won the lottery,
lost a house in the great correction,
what with this, that and the other thing
“forgot” to change his address
leaving it to the court to factor this
with the lawyer’s request for release
along with a letter from a church and a little league coach
something about a union electrician job
he needs to get
I still remember how I danced around the room
that day I won this civil service job with a pension.
Later it slowly dawned on me for 30 years
I had to do it, and then for 30 years I did.
Sometimes feeling like a concert pianist,
sometime like a technician in a death machine,
the shattered lives, the blistering assembly line,
wondering who is doing the time, me or the faces.
Listening to Dylan during lunch hour,
later Bob Marley, later Coltrane,
as the years rolled by, through the halcyon days
of opioids, methedrine, cocaine and heroin,
A black cloud rolled down around me
in the late nineties, around 2003
as mysteriously as it came
the spirit lifts.
I wonder what it was
like with him.
And all this time time was passing,
10 years, 20 years, 30 years,
though we didn’t realize it,
me with my crazy life,
he with his
right up to the time Bette and I celebrated
amazingly our tenth anniversary
and he applied to be a union electrician
to begin a new chapter in his life
he now says
and upon further prodding by the judge
the company punched his name into a computer
and he had to return to Criminal Court
where the very same reporter as 30 years ago sits
and in this strange reunion
neither of us could have possibly imagined
we look into each other’s eyes
as if beholding some great wonder in the sky
neither of us has ever seen before
and in our lifetime will never live to see again
as he says he came back to see us all
because this warrant popped up
Chris Butters has been published in Paterson Literary Review, Chiron Review, Blue Collar Review, Home Planet News Online and dispatchespoetrywars.com. He is a coproducer of WBAI-FM's weekly Arts Express radio show in New York City. He recommends the Police Reform Organizing Project.