The Book Life

Definition of Specific Crimes | April 1, 2011

Specific crimes are offenses against existence.
Begin with an image. Slightly transparent people,
waveringly thin. Heavy seaman’s rope draped over shoulders,
knotted at waists, wound around wrists.
All connected, net-like. So very easy to set fire.
Specific in the initial act, arson burns us easily and equally,
traveling the rope like a subway. Another: garden shears
and sharp cuts. Each separation a weakening of our pull.
Also: a very strong wind, arising without time granted
to attach ourselves more firmly to the ground or to the furniture.
Again, the harm equal; once one of us takes flight, those ropes
take us all sky high, and we fall with equal speed.

I would criminalize, with this document, also the severing that you
undertook, despite your fumbling attempt at reattachment.
Retied, the rope continues fraying while I’m forced to watch it daily,
a bulky knot, untutored in your haste.

An individual act. Specific. But the impact here,
unequal. Born unduly by yours truly. That knot you left is heavy,
ugly and unwanted. You put things back together poorly.
One could ascertain you didn’t try very hard. Read no books
on tying knots and have never been a seaman.

I will choose the punishment
for each specific crime.

Keep in mind the net. The seaman.
Each departure and act of arson offends existence.
I am the rule maker. This will be my model code.

I’ve always wanted to merge my worlds and write a series of poems based on the “Specific Crimes” section of the Model Penal Code. I imagine this poem as the opening.


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