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Thursday, August 11, 2011


by Lauren Schmidt

A judge on Thursday sentenced two Eugene men to 25 years in prison for viciously beating a homeless man to death, calling it a senseless act that made the pair less than animals. . . . [Judge] Foote, who is retiring soon after more than 30 years on the bench, said he still doesn’t understand how such crimes can happen. --The Register Guard, January 8, 2010

The next morning, they went out for breakfast
as if it were any other Sunday—eggs, sausage, buttered bread—
while their victim’s wounds gummed with blood,
clogged the machine of his lungs till he choked his last breath.
They washed their hands when they were done, red blood
streamed Willamette green with the stipulated facts
that they had no motive for attack except that their hearts
were black, their blood was black, like the night was black.

No more.

After thirty-two years, I’ll hang up my cloak.
I’ve done my job because justice was served:
twenty-five years for clipping fifty-six years
to minutes or so—but they don’t know,
those boys didn’t wait for that.

On this stand, justice prevails

and shouldn’t it feel good to do justice?
Yes, it feels good to do justice until it doesn’t anymore.

Editor’s Note: This poem is part of a full-length collection of poetry based on the poet’s experience volunteering at a homeless kitchen, The Dining Room, in Eugene, Oregon, where several hate crimes occur each year against homeless men. The collection, Psalms of The Dining Room, is due out next year. The collection draws attention to an otherwise silenced problem: hate crimes against homeless victims.

Lauren Schmidt’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Progressive, Alaska Quarterly Review, New York Quarterly, Rattle, Nimrod, Fifth Wednesday Journal,  Ekphrasis Journal, Wicked Alice and other journals. Her poems have been selected as finalists for the 2008 and 2009 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Dancing Girl Press Chapbook Contest. Her awards include the So to Speak Poetry Prize and the Neil Postman Prize for Metaphor. In 2011, she was nominated for the Best New Poets Anthology. Her chapbook, The Voodoo Doll Parade (Main Street Rag), was selected as part of the 2011 Author’s Choice Chapbooks Series. Her second chapbook, Because Big Boobies Are Necessary (Amsterdam Press), and her first full-length collection, Psalms of The Dining Room (Wipf & Stock) are both forthcoming. Lauren Schmidt teaches writing at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey.