Sleepwalker, followed by reflection

He committed murder.
He burned down a house.
He didn’t know what he was doing.
Let him go.
We can’t wake him up.
The sleepwalker is building a bomb
To blow up a church.
In his sleep now
He is weaponizing his hatred.
The defense: He doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Judgment: Let him go.
Now the sleepwalker
Votes in a racist.
Abuses women.
Embraces violence like a lover.
In a rare lucid moment
He pleads innocent:
I didn’t know what I was doing.
The sleepwalker
Asks the judge,
Can I go now?
I didn’t know.
I didn’t know anything.
Judge: Let him go.
Prosecution: Let there be nuclear war.
Let there be the end of things.
Let the sea rise.
Let the homeless wander the earth.
The sleepwalker walks out.
He walks down the middle of the street.
Cars swerve around him.
He is innocent.
Leave him be.
Reflection:I wrote this poem because I started wondering if we are too lenient with unconscious criminals: those who contemplate or do terrible things without seeming to realize what they are doing. One reason for this is they lack self-awareness. They are living life in a vacuum in which the sole purpose of their existence is to try to meet a handful of very basic needs. Their reality is like that of a child. When I was little, I had friends who would pull the legs off daddy-long legs. I was horrified. Because of the way my mother raised me, bless her heart, I cared about the spider. But these boys were not evil. It’s just that their reality was void of any feeling for the spider. In fact, watching the spider suffer seemed to fill them with delight. How does that change if no one models a different way of functioning. Well, thankfully, I am pretty sure most of those boys grew into their hearts and would never conceive of perpetrating such cruelty now. But some children, probably a small percentage don’t grow into their hearts, don’t learn empathy, and never develop a conscience . . . and what’s scary is, a small percentage of that select group might actually become powerful people, and maybe even CEOs and presidents. Is it a crime to be cruel or heartless or even violent when you lack self-awareness? Just asking.


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