Poetry and Truth Telling

21 Jun 2012

Sean Flynn for GQ:

She also found his prison mug on the counter and saw that it seemed to be filthy, as if the warden had never allowed Jessie to use a dishrag. Miss Stephanie scrubbed that mug. She scoured it until it was smooth as a newborn’s cheek. But she couldn’t make the inside white again. It’s stained a deep brownish black, and it will be that way forever.

This is storytelling mixed with journalism; it is poetry joined with truth telling; it is the revealing of sins in such a way that it explains to us the details of an incident while also speaking to a more general human condition; it is both truthful and true.

Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols spent eighteen years in prison after a trial that hardly deserves to be called as such. Their guilt or innocence is almost inconsequential, because they were imprisoned without the opportunity for justice. Our faith in our legal system is based, almost entirely, on the idea that we will have the ability and the opportunity to make use of it to defend ourselves if the need ever arises. If that is taken away from us, if that is taken away from any one of us, the social contract begins to break down.