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sharp 85 Paula Sharp The Grand Jury 1. Sixteen People Have Been Detained under the RICO Act for Refusing to Speak before a New York City Grand Jury Assembled by the Reagan Administration Is no title for a poem. Before morning coffee you make me listen to you define "grandjury." You say, a woman where we work has served 17 months for contempt. She has a four-year-old boy. I make coffee. I think, this morning is so cold you could cut bread with it, a woman's voice could be that bread, warm as butter in our mouths, and rising like yeast in a hot kitchen. There are women's voices indelible as blackberry stains on a white dress, darkening in washwater to a vibrant indigo. Your voice fills this room like the smell of coffee . I would like to talk about hot bread, yellow butter, blackjam, coffee dark as a pupil winking at me. You tell me to read ugly words: grand, Reagan, detained, administration. I don't want them in this poem. I am going to write instead about voices that swell inside you like a fever, belladonna dilating your pupils, steam struggling to free itself from a cooking pot. 86 the minnesota review 2. Your Silence "We can be held in jail for the entire life of the grand jury (up to 18 months in this case) and even then could be resubpoenaed . . . We are offered the choice of cooperating with these secret proceedings or going to jail for our silence." —Bernadine Dohrn Your silence is a rebellious girl scraping her fingernails over slate, the brakes ofthe subway train in which thejurors huddle and sway in their nightmares. Your silence follows them everywhere: It is the barking ofthat dog, the radio on their streetcorner, children in a nearby schoolyard, the upstairs tenant with her centipede shoes. When we sleep, your silence pulses in our wrists and ears, a snoring conch bought on 14th Street, an insect in Morningside Park whistling Katydid, Katydid, Katydid. Your silence sweetens the taste ofour mouths, it is the first apricot I remember eating, its seed shaped like a thin woman's stomach, its skin smooth and seamed as the ball of her foot. sharp 87 3. All the Grand Jury Wants "I have been subpoenaed before this grand jury to provide to you a handwriting sample. After much thought, consultation, soul searching and prayer, I am electing not to provide the handwriting sample." —Asha Renee Thornton They do not want your photograph, your children, your weapons: they want your words. They dream ofpulling them like teeth, stacking them like ID photos, losing them in old filing cabinets. They love words: they wean them early from their mothers, and muzzle them and teach them to lunge and kill. When our words come back we no longer recognize them: good as gold, manly, delicate as a woman, black as sin. Their ears and tails are missing, they wear necklaces of iron, they tug uniformed men into the warm alleyways where we live and speak. 88 the minnesota review 4. People May Not Know "I will not be coerced into naming names. I will not talk to this illegal grandjury . . . People may not know that Jerry Gaines, a dignified Black woman from Mississippi and mother of eight, has beenjailedinNew York ..." —Bemadine Dohrn The city is quiet; now in early morning even the New York Times presses are still. I'm walking to work and an ant below me is also walking her head-of-a-pin trail, silently. It is early enough that I am cautious of men passing me on the empty street. Far under the sidewalk, a subway train coughs, clears its voice, prepares to be deafening. A woman sleeps on a bench, her face puckered with silence, her stomach round as a lemon. I trip and start to curse, but don't—my grandmother, her lips pressed tight as a peapod, used to wash the goddamns out ofour mouths with Ivory Soap; she hated foul language. Just once, when our uncle was beating his daughter, our grandmother almost swore. We watched her mouth open into a circle, her nose lengthening...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 85-88
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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