Persona poems can be an opportunity to amp up empathy, to attempt to see things from an entirely other point of view. Pastor Jackson is that kind for persona for me, and he has shown up in my writing on more than one occasion. Oddly, persona poems can also allow us to become more deeply autobiographical since they can be free of the specific circumstances of our own lives, but furnish a platform to express what we have abstracted from our experiences – often our deepest (and sometimes subliminally held) beliefs. The legalistic talk in Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury provided that kind of opening for me.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury
A broken clock may or may not
be evidence, but in a failing light
every string of pearls assumes
ambivalence and the window, dulled
by a certain thickness which was later
ascribed to fog, explains her fear
of the hand reaching for the vodka.
It’s true, the fire is difficult, it
obfuscates, but the in camera version
suggests he meant well, planned
to wield a firm but just hand,
and if through the window he saw
that which unhinged him, if the hour
was not so much easing into nightfall
as dimwitted and heavy-handed,
remember even David confused
the permissible and the sacred.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let us not
forget that vodka leaves no trace.
And the records were lost in the fire.
The records are gone to the flame.
So when the man steps back into
shadow, where is your proof?
Pastor Jackson Attends the Grateful Dead Concert
When things get this bad, Brother,
better to sing than wail. Praise it!
Make a joyful…because children the veil
is torn. Today is the day to trade your symbols
for cymbals, wind up your winding sheets,
and Sister, you can stop the dreading – it’s
come! It’s come with harp and horn!
Oh Children, let us tambourine
for Bethlehem is everywhere and who
among the elect can recognize his brother?
Pittsburgh poet Deborah Bogen’s full-length collection, Landscape With Silos, was a 2004 National Poetry Series Finalist and won the 2005 X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize. An earlier chapbook was selected by Edward Hirsch as the 2002 ByLine Press Competition winner. Her poems and reviews appear widely in print journals (Iowa Review, Crazyhorse, Field, The Gettysburg Review) and online (Verse Daily, Poetry Daily, Poemeleon, Lafovea.) For the past eight years she’s run a free writing workshop in her Pittsburgh living room. You can visit her on the internet at www.DeborahBogen.net.