Imagine a childhood as tragic premiere.
Unwashed, bruised, soiled clothing, still she’s a star.
The cops and the guy passed out in the chair,
minor roles; mom’s off-stage, but won’t be far.

The stage: her home, the scene dirty and dark;
with props like beer cans and needles, please look
where you step. Mom enters, found in the park.
Shouts are lyrics, DCF’s got the book.

A report’s filed, mom’s hauled off in cuffs,
walking streets at night seems to be a crime.
A lady takes the child and some of her stuff,
the rest cast off—wrong size, too much grime.

A new home, she hopes they’ve got one for mom
but mom’s troubled with her PTSD,
her addiction, and who knows what else; from
day to day, it’s matinee misery.

She’s quiet, has no one, just tries to please.
Dads come and go, no sense of direction.
Alphabet soup—A&Bs, B&Es—
is their script for the House of Correction.

She’s the small subject of a C&P;
a case in court, can a child really win?
At stake, her future; on her side, all the
sad king’s horses and all the sad king’s men.

What child is this, who must be protected
not auditioned daily for survival?
From adults, leading roles are expected,
a parent, not a pal or a needy rival.

Innocence is fragile, beyond all laws;
Act One wounds can hush a lifetime’s applause.



DCF = Department of Children and Families;
PTSD = Post Traumatic Stress Disorder;
A&B = a criminal charge of assault and battery;

B&E = a criminal charge of breaking and entering; and

C&P = in Massachusetts, a petition for care and protection of a minor child (in other states, this child welfare case is called an Abuse and Neglect petition.


After retiring, James Cronin returned to his first love, literary studies and creative writing. He retired in 2007 from his position as a juvenile court justice in Fall River, MA, having served for twenty years. Prior to going on the bench, he was a lawyer for eighteen years with the New Bedford firm of Perry, Hicks, McCawley and Cronin, and engaged in the general practice of law with specialties in municipal law, tort litigation, appellate practice and juvenile justice. He resides with his wife, Edwina, a retired high school biology teacher in Westport, MA. The have two adult children.

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