Courting New Appeals

By Roi Guanapo Ankhkara Kwabena

Lord Harris's statue
with fountain have escaped
many vicious assaults of vandalism
over recent years. This public square
in Port of Spain with stately trees
still shelter white-collar labourers on lunch break from
the sweltering sun at noon
alongside half naked vagrants
wary of clogged city streets. At night, here
becomes a sacred haven-
discreet for persecuted transvestites. While

obliquely opposite towers
the impregnable stone walls
of the Royal Goal, constructed
early in the last century
by skilled artisans whose
descendants would serve time within
at her majesty's pleasure....

This monumental institution has restrained
common offenders and civil disorder :
water rioters, trade unionists,
black power radicals, military mutineers
an' even Islamic fundamentalists...

Royal Goal remains a treasure
to behold. An imposing vestige
of a now compromised system
that ostentatious political cronies
are attempting to dismantle.

Behind these walls
faceless men, in white short trousers
with matching vests
sit precariously on Death Row
as their defense lawyers
seek to defy local verdicts
of state execution

Now in postulated affectation
of self righteous apathy
democratically elected
British trained legal advocates-once
defense lawyers to the highest bidders
now as regional Attorney Generals
assert it is time to abolish
a convicted man's right of appeal
to the Privy Council....

none of these licit opportunists
cloaked in the rainment
of tempered tradition
considered challenging
this patriarchal eighteenth century
method of castigation....

the mature judgement
of the same Privy Council condemning
the barbaric tenure of incarceration
with cerebral trauma
of impending strangulation....

© Copyright 1997 – Roi Kwabena
Reprinted with kind permission of the author.

Source: A job for the hangman /by Roi Kwabena. Port of Spain;Birmingham: Raka Publications, 1997.
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