Judge Roberts said to attorney Bonauto in the marriage equality case before the US Supreme Court: You say you want to join the institution of marriage, but it seems to me actually what you want to do is change the institution. But ultimately he and his fellow judges will make a decision that allows our society to move on, and one would hope, in a direction of greater justice. As they do so they will have to embody their intuitions about what is justice in language that will have force for a community.
Every time a poet writes a line of poetry he or she is going through the same process:
- how much am I changing this institution of English by joining this line to it, this word to it, this metaphor to it, this poem to it?
- What is my intuition about what needs to be expressed and how can I express it?
- What about the sacrifice of everything that I fail to say? When I choose to compare my lover’s eyes to the moon I condemn everything else I could compare them to to death: the sun, the stars, a dog, a cat, a dream, a stork, a whisper, a confusion, a meteor, a net, a trap, a judge, a poet, a death sentence, a wheel, a throne, a forgetting, a remembering, an amnesia, creation, the last judgment, the three billy goats gruff. How can I stand before these condemned similes to death? How do I look them in the face bearing the judge’s guilt? How can I be fair?
Both judge and poet are cramming the infinite in a finite body so we can move on in a direction of greater flourishing. Both need to be humble and judgmental by turns to get the job done.