David Gewanter

Judgment of Paris

Volume 14:4, Fall 2013
Prose Poem Issue

Judgment of Paris

—in the DC courts

If we are ready to prove our justice    then let us smother the face of beauty—

Here in the chill fluorescence of the courtroom, ranged before a twitchy lawyer and a smooth, horsefaced lawyer, before the page-boy lady judge, here sits the muscled young man accused, a shining bored Adonis bulging under his good shirt…

and here in back we sit, the jury candidates.  What a fatted rack we are, our slabbed haunches strain to lift the belly or double-bust from the seats, as each is called to fill a jury chair. Then with quick glances a lawyer rejects the one likely to vote against him, the brisk doorman or soft teacher, who betrays a bias through hand, collar, or shoe—so that, just as each of us sits before Mr. Handsome we hear You are excused: begone flawed bodies, this pageant where the model chooses his spectators—

Back we shuffle to steerage: and now the pantsuits stretch again, the mushroom butts parachute down the order of being, the free earth welcoming as molded seats cry a little doom…accept us!  In a trial by beauty, we would scrape the salt mines, and the boy walks free.

It was mottled Roy Cohn, during the Commie trials, who worried that his friend David Schine worked too hard in the Army; got Sen. McCarthy to wave a list of Reds, and got his boy weekend leave.  Destroyed the hearings.  Later, dying but surrounded by young hunks, Cohn hosted pool parties for right-wing bigwigs: they fawned over him and ignored the studs….

Too ugly to sit as jury?  Let all who judge be naked, Plato said, let us weigh our naked flesh on the scales of Justice.  But let us be dead as well.


David Gewanter's fourth book of poems is Fort Necessity (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2018). He is co-editor of Robert Lowell: Collected Poems (FSG/Faber,2003). He teaches at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. To read more by this author, see the Summer 2003 issue, Wartime Issue, and Museum Issue.