. Contract Murder No one is ever quite sure how it’s planned— What’s clear is that a grievance is expressed By injured parties, who directly make Complaints to the Commission, which in turn Investigates, considers, and decides. There are some instances where no one brings Specific charges—bad blood or distrust Hamper a business, and to clear the air Someone proposes purgative redress. In any case, should the Commission find Cause for coercive measures of the sort That silence all discussion instantly, Nothing is done at first. Nothing at all. Deliberations simply cease, as if A seminar on Plato’s Dialogues Came to some small conclusion, and moved on To deal with matters equally abstruse. Then slowly, as the weeks pass into months, Word of the sentence filters through the ranks. Even now there may be a reprieve: Someone speaks up defending the accused, Or points out circumstances that require Different procedures, or at least delay. A friend might offer mediation, while Others may bring up facts that the Commission Had not known, and so at every step The thing can be reversed. But, barring these, Consensus and a general will are formed About its patent, plain necessity. What happens now is anybody’s guess— Myriad factors operate, but gears Begin to mesh. Small signs can be observed: The man from Philadelphia who knows A cousin of the felon in Detroit Slips out of town discreetly. Or perhaps An unnamed party visits for a week, Lives in a basement room, plays solitaire. The telephone seems quirky in its rings— Hands rush to silence it, and single words Constitute conversations. Tempers fray, There is finality in every sigh. Soon afterwards, the focus of this stir Turns an ignition key in his parked car, Or walks along an unfrequented street, Or lifts his head before an open window, Or stops to advise a tall, accosting stranger. The scene is immaterial, the means Standard, though pains are taken that they be Sudden, unlooked for, and unstoppable. At the Commission, dinner is subdued— A few quick whispers tie up the loose ends. And the police, who do not for an instant Suppose they can unravel what occurred, Stretch yellow tape to form a small enclosure, Since that is standardized routine as well. From Formal Complaints (Somers Rocks Press, 1997) . . Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine TRINACRIA and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.