“A descending spiral, begetting
the very thing it seeks to destroy.”

- - -

In early November, there is a dinner, sponsored by the Black
Law Students’ Association. We will toast Justice
And Rosa Parks before bringing out the food.
We will eat and talk late into the night,
We will talk and eat and forget about the winter
That gathers, even in the South, outside in the dark.

By the time we leave, it will, indeed, be dark:
No stars, just streetlights against a sky black
And cold enough to remind us that it’s winter.
You should come. It’s all about networking. Yeah, and justice—
Doctor King’s “joyous daybreak to end the long night
of captivity.” And did I mention … there’s free food?

(Why do they always advertise the food?
Are college students’ social lives so dark
That they must be bribed to spend one night
With their fellow classmates, the members of the Black
Law Students’ Association? Forget all that talk about justice:
Do you have anything better to do in Williamsburg in the winter?)

Not so bad, though, to be a law student in winter.
(Except for those ridiculously cold bus rides to shop for food.
Ironic that this colonial city is so hard on pedestrians: where’s the justice
In that?) Worse to study law in the spring, when it doesn’t get dark
Until late, but you’re inside all day and everybody wears black,
Like job interviews are funerals, and studies day and night.

It’s a safe town, Williamsburg, safe enough to walk around at night.
Far enough south to be cheap, but far enough north to have a real winter.
Our university may not be urbane, but it is diverse. Fifteen percent of our students are black
Or, rather, “self-identified persons of color.” The undergraduates complain about the food,
Of course, but the law students have more serious concerns. Law is a slippery, dark
Road, the high road that sometimes, maybe, leads to justice.

Sometimes I think there’s no such thing: no justice
Except in the stories we tell ourselves to ward off this night
Of our own making. Darkness cannot drive out the dark
But will optimism, an imagined heat, keep us warm come winter?
Such faith sustains itself, I’m told; it needs no other food,
But I doubt the world is quite so white and black.

Anyway, where was I … Black Student Association? Before I got sidetracked by justice?
You can’t go wrong with free food if you have nothing else planned for Friday night.
The first social event of winter and, if we go together, neither of us will have to walk home alone in the dark.