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A Myth of Justice

By
August 24, 2005

 

When he died he revealed his sense of justice,
distributive and proportional, not

the mere equation one divided by two
(though two came to be divided by one

in the end), but each according to need,
as the Greeks divined in ancient Athens.

To the daughter who had the least but gave
the most-and of herself, for him-he left

more than to the wealthy son, so richly
deserving this lesson in equality.

But the brother had a different idea
of wealth, and though the father proved a man

of iron will, the son sought to break
the will, splitting the property evenly

for the sake of fairness and for propriety.
The daughter, loathe to appear grasping,

concurred in her loss of independence.
And so it transpired, richer took from poorer,

as if politics rules even in death.
While all this was going over, more went on:

out of the corner of the eye, catch
Justice, from a column in the courthouse,

wink at the brother and readjust
the calibrations of her butcher’s scale-

winking again, she slips her blindfold on.
Behind her, visible in the mural of the rotunda,

Athena narrows her gray-green eyes,
the Furies gathering beside her.

 

Paul Kane’s work appears in The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, Paris Review, Poetry and Verse. His third collection of poems, Work Life,

is due out in 2006. He teaches at Vassar College.

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