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Prose Poem
SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Dont’t Choose Me

by Sherman Pearl

I’ve done my duty, wasted hours in the jury box, waited for lawyers to grill me like a suspect, then dismiss me for cause, the cause being whatever they choose. I’ve been dozing with boredom, as old men do, festering in a haze, doing my time till the prosecutor wakes me with his verdict (perverse system). Don’t choose me, mister. Choose the woman beside me who dressed for the ordeal, her righteous nose lifted above the grime, incorruptible. She’d be perfect. Me? I’m a hard-assed bigot, a soft-hearted liberal. At my age I urinate frequently. My hearing’s so bad I’d be deaf to well-reasoned arguments. I have no patience with wrongdoers but long to free the accused, guilty or not. I’d be a terrible jurist. I have no faith that justice can be done in this fatally flawed democracy, though I’m tempted to try. So go ahead and excuse me! I have work to do at home, such as taking out garbage before the rats move in; or writing crank letters to the editor. My time, in short, is short, my call to service eternal; and I know how these proceedings drag out, all that legal gibberish and incessant objections.

What’s that? You’ve chosen me? Me? You want me to sit in judgment of my fallible peers? I am honored, sir; I swear I’ll do my best.


—Selected for Honorable Mention in the competition for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2016, and first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2016-17 (Garden Oak Press, February 2017); appears here with permissions from both poet and publisher.


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Sherman Pearl

is among the founders of the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, and formerly served as co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets, co-editor of California Quarterly, and president of Beyond Baroque. His poetry appears in more than 50 literary journals and anthologies, including The Atlanta Review, Verve, Rattle, The Sun, and Sam Hamill’s Poets Against the War (Nation Books, 2003).

Pearl’s awards include first prize in the 2003 National Writers Union Prize (judged by Philip Levine), the 2008 Anderbo Award, the 2009 Margie Review Editor’s Prize, the White Mice Prize of the Lawrence Durrell Society, second prize in the Strokestown (Ireland) International Poetry Awards, and an Atlanta Review International Publication Award. His newest book, Elegy for Myself, is his sixth collection of poetry. Others include Profanities and The Poem in Time of War (both published by Conflux Press). A retired journalist and publicist, he lives in Santa Monica.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury