The north face of the Rotunda
Lifetime Learning

Court Seated

In honor of National Poetry Month, Lifetime Learning is featuring poems written by esteemed faculty all month long. The second poem in this series, entitled “Court Seated” is written by Kevin McFadden, Chief Operating Officer of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and author of the poetry collection Hardscrabble. See the end of the post for a full bio. Mr. McFadden says this about his poem:

McFadden“It’s a poet’s responsibility to explore the language and I always find vibrancy and poignancy in figurative expression. Our idioms say so much about us, partly because they reflect a metaphorical mindset–a layering of something we know well over something we are still trying to grasp–in ways that call us to look at things for those connections. If our legal system seems to be a bit too fluid, if interpretation is endlessly contentious, if decisions seem to have been made under influences we don’t always recognize…perhaps the spirit of the law is indeed something we need to investigate more. Or that’s my experience with decisions and drinks: they are more often mixed than fixed.”

From Hardscrabble (2008, University of Georgia Press):

Court Seated

If facts don’t fit,
we say the story
doesn’t hold water.

Law is all awash, aloof
when testimony is measured
by liquid, alcohol

by proof. What do we say
when we say, “wine
is truth”? Is justice blind

drunk? Enough to make us
puke? Judges,
reputed for sobriety,

will still occasionally
order in the quart.
Lawyers pass the bar

each day, with whom?
the bottle or the bailiff?
So that’s why we sit

when called to the stand.
Raise your right hand.
Take the fifth.


HardscrabbleKevin McFadden is the author of the poetry collection Hardscrabble and the Chief Operating Officer of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. He has recently edited Speaking in Faces: A Type Specimen Book, a catalog of typefaces documenting the largest publicly accessible collection of moveable type in Virginia, which resides at the VFH’s Virginia Arts of the Book Center. Recipient of a Henry Hoyns Fellowship at the University of Virginia, he is the winner of the George Garrett Award for poetry from the Fellowship of Southern Writers and a New Writers Award from the Great Lakes Colleges Association. His poems appear in journals including American Letters & Commentary, Fence, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares and Poetry.

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