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Lawrence Joseph Lawrence Joseph was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1948. His grandparents, Lebanese and Syrian Catholics, were among the first Arab emigrants to Detroit. He earned degrees from the University of Michigan, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Michigan Law School. Before moving to New York City, where he practiced law and eventually joined the faculty at St. John’s University School of Law, a position he has held since 1987, he served as law clerk to Justice G. Mennen Williams of the Michigan Supreme Court. Joseph has been called “the most important lawyer-poet of our era,” and his poems have been described as “tough-minded, compassionate,” and of “great dignity, grace, and unrelenting persuasiveness.” His books include Shouting at No One, Curriculum Vitae, and Before Our Eyes—collected in Codes, Precepts, Biases, andTaboos: Poems 1973–1993—and a fourth collection, Into It. He is also the author of the prose book Lawyerland. Joseph’s work has been widely anthologized, and his honors include fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. Married to the painter Nancy Van Goethem, he lives in downtown Manhattan. It’s Not Me Shouting at No One Before dawn, on the street again, beneath sky that washes me with ice, smoke, metal. I don’t want to think the bullet pierced my shoulder, the junkie’s rotten teeth laughed, his yellow hair froze. I’m careful: I smoke Turkish tobacco cigarette butts, I drink a lot to piss a lot, 148 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 148 I fry the pig in its own fat, eat the knuckles, brain, and stomach; I don’t eat the eyes! Always four smokestacks burning bones, somewhere tears that won’t stop, everywhere blood becomes flesh that wants to say something. It’s not me shouting at no one in Cadillac Square: it’s God roaring inside me, afraid to be alone. Do What You Can In the Church of I AM she hears there is a time to heal, but her son, Top Dog of the Errol Flynn gang, doesn’t lay down his sawed-off shotgun, the corn she planted in the field where the Marvel Motor Car factory once was doesn’t grow with pigweed and cocklebur. When someone in the Resurrection Lounge laughs, “Bohunk put the two-foot dogfish in the whore’s hand,” someone’s daughter whispers, “Fuck you,” places a half-smoked cigarette in her coat pocket, swings open the thick wooden door and walks into air that freezes when it hears frost Lawrence Joseph 149 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 149 coming from Sault Sainte Marie. Driving, I see a shed of homing pigeons, get out of my car to look. I answer, “What you care?” to a woman who shouts, “What you want?” Beside the Church of St. John Nepomocene an old man, hunched and cold, prays, “Mother of God” to a statue of the Virgin Mary surrounded by a heart-shaped rosary of fifty-three black and six white bowling balls. Where the Ford and Chrysler freeways cross a sign snaps, 5,142,250, the number of cars produced so far this year in America. Not far away, on Beaufait Street, a crowd gathers to look at the steam from blood spread on the ice. The light red, I press the accelerator to keep the motor warm. I wonder if they know that after the jury is instructed on the Burden of Persuasion and the Burden of Truth, that after the sentence of twenty to thirty years comes down, when the accused begs, “Lord, I can’t do that kind of time,” the judge, looking down, will smile and say, “Then do what you can.” 150 Lawrence Joseph 1CHARARA_pages_i-164.qxd:Layout 1 11/14/08 2:36 PM Page 150 Curriculum Vitae I might have been born in Beirut, not Detroit, with my right name. Grandpa taught me to love to eat. I am not Orthodox, or Sunni, Shiite, or Druse. Baptized in the one true Church, I too was weaned on Saint Augustine. Eisenhower never dreamed I wore corrective shoes. Ford Motor Co. never cared I’d never forgive Highland Park, River Rouge, Hamtramck. I memorized the Baltimore Catechism. I collected holy cards, prayed to a litany of saints to intercede on behalf of my father who slept...


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