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  • Writer's pictureAmy Bass

When Justice Dies

The passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg felt like a punch to the gut, a moment in which all oxygen left our air, all sense left our world. Once again, words seemed to leave me and when I finally picked up a pen to think about how to make meaning out of this moment, prose fell by the wayside and verse (a rare thing for me) emerged. I found solace in the work of Frank O'Hara, whose poem The Day Lady Died is among my favorites, one of the best articulations of what the death of an icon means to the individual. I have patterned this on his elegy to Billie Holiday, with both thanks and apologies to him.

(Oh, and one more thing: be kind, for I am not nor do I claim to be a poet.)

The Day Justice Died*

It is 10:45 in New Rochelle a Friday

Erev Rosh Hashanah, yes

it is 2020 and I go to play tennis

because I have a flu shot in Larchmont

at 1:30 and I need to shower as

it is the only other time I will see people today

I walk through the Farmer’s Market under a sun

that has returned after days of hiding behind

smoky haze from Phoenix, Oregon

which is gone

my mask slips down my chin

while the pharmacist checks me in (first name Bae)

and tells me I am number 47 and Brad and Jen

had chemistry last night sparring with Cameron Crowe’s words

while Morgan Freeman read and Sean Penn looked on, but

I didn’t see it because I liked The Princess Bride instead

and for Hannah I grab some Skittles because a bell schedule

on Zoom is more grind than it seems and Google Meet isn’t working

but at least she’s not on a Chrome book

(tell the District those don’t work)

and I braid the challah and mix the egg wash and wonder if

I should have made a brisket and if we need

to wear shoes

It is 7:25 while the candles burn and I am in the kitchen

clearing dishes scraping plates water running

when he calls to me from the other room

and no he is not kidding

while I wrestle bits of honey-lashed crumbs staying behind for

one last look at


*with thanks and apologies to Frank O’Hara for both form and function

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