Poem for a Quiet Vigil

Some of you have asked me to post the poem I read at the Vigil for Justice on Sept. 29. Here it is.

Who are we?
Who are we, who, having heard a state say “Guilty,” have the nerve to shout back “No.”
Who are we to pray: “Give these men fair trials or for God’s sake let them go!”

I’ll tell you who we are not.
We are not Internet idiots, with time on our hands, who “don’t really know what transpired.”
Nor are we fools who think evidence at trials is something courts need not require.

Who are we?
We are common people with common sense who dare to expect justice.
We are common people with a common intent who won’t be told that madness
Makes somehow judicial sense—and that the pounding of a judge’s gavel can turn madness
Into justice—It can’t. All that gavel gave us was black-robed, black-day, death-dealing sadness.

Who are we?
We are common people with enough common sense to see through an insidious bluff
And—with lives on the line—who’ve stood up to Power to tell it firmly, “Enough.
Enough. You have taken—and betrayed—our trust.
You cannot feed us nonsense, then imprison and kill for us. No more. Not now. Enough!”

Who are we?
We are Arkansans. We are Americans. We are citizens of the world who care
About matters of actual innocence—and about having courthouses where
What happens inside makes sense—where proceedings don’t mock reason—and where
commoners don’t have to rise up—as we have had to rise up—to damn calling sham trials fair.

Who are we?
We are the commoners who would try to stay the executioner’s anxious hand—and who say,
That every hour an innocent person is locked away is time unconscionably long. Yet Damien,
Jason and Jessie have been imprisoned for years—for thousands upon thousands of days—
While their precious youth—their irretrievable youth—has been shamelessly stripped away.

Who are we?
We are the vigil-keepers, the watchers, the resolute sojourners for truth, who tonight tell
Three innocent men that we are—and we will be—with them until some court their freedom compels.
Awaiting that day, tonight we stand with them—with them again in their cells
And mark the dark passage of 17 years—to the tolling of a bell.