For what did or what did not happen
we need an interview room, a light bulb
swinging one way and then another,
but its purpose heat as much as light;
we need more than one witness, as many
as we can find until the new ones stop saying
something new, and then, with an odd logic,
we will sit down to average out the facts
about what was said, what was done, when
and where the bodies fell, who ran away.
We need a laboratory, a shelf of chemicals,
a thumb-tabbed book to tell us what they mean,
and a box or two of evidence in little bags,
scrapings from a shoe, a leaf from the doorstep,
and many more things usually thrown away
but that now may make all the difference.
We need some knowledge of how things
have happened to other people, and how
still other people have done such things.
For all our expert efforts, we will be lucky
if someone finally decides to come forward,
guilt or fear driving them toward their duty,
if someone suddenly remembers a quirk,
a tic, a scar, a limp, an accent, a crooked smile,
that makes sense of everything else we know,
if the minor character no one would suspect
will rise from his bench and cry out to heaven.
More often than not, we will go to the jury
with an incomplete story, with doubtful facts,
an elaborate puzzle with a few missing pieces,
or a few stray pieces that fit an unknown puzzle.
We will have to rely on plausible memories,
a likely reconstruction, artful diagrams, and
a closing argument that prevails over everything.
Monty reads "What Happened":
Monty confesses: "I am focusing on the almost generic nature of most crimes and the criminal justice process. This repetitive framework may help explain why most crime writing is a variation on tried-and-true formulas -- formulas that mimic what occurs in real life again and again."
MONTY JONES is a writer in Austin, Texas. His poems have been published in Southern Poetry Review, Assisi, Arcadia, Clapboard House, Christian Science Monitor, Albatross, Texas Observer, and elsewhere.