When I am tired, so tired, of my job, of writing appeals late at night, of the fact that my writing appeals late at night is absolutely nothing compared to what my clients are facing, of my complete and total inadequacy in the face of what they face, or of the horrors of the facts of the crimes of the cases that I work on late at night, crimes which I hope stay far away from me and the people I love, I take comfort in the fact that my friend Jill wrote a poem about this very situation, the one that I find myself in, the one that I have found myself in over and over again for years. I remember the poem because I want to reach out into the night, through my computer, the very tool that I work with on these cases, and find some evidence of human decency. And I remember, I did that once and Jill wrote a poem about it so there must be some kind of decency out there.
St. Ailred by Jill McDonough
Billy writes me an email in the middle of the night, tired
and sick of it, up writing appeals for a good kid who found
a gun, decided to use it in Louisiana. Eighteen, he shot
the neighbor lady dead in a death penalty state.
Billy's eyes are tired, he's sick of this work.
There's no time for it's-not-fair, the almost-plea,
the best case scenario: an ex-good-kid in prison
the rest of his life, woman still dead, still shot to death
in her driveway, in front of her kid. Billy,
I am reading about saints and relics, reliquaries, looking for
medallions online to keep you safe. St. Ailred's the patron saint
of integrity. Who knew? He was known for his compassion,
his clear and lucid writing. He's perfect for you, Billy. He's been dead
a thousand years. Pinkerton's Lives of the Scottish Saints tells us that
at his most sacred tomb the sick were cured, the lepers cleansed,
the wicked terrified, the blind received their sight.