The Insanity trial of Daniel B.
Beyond the bandaged battle with time,
I see that old man.
Enfeebled from struggle against
Our common and constant enemy.
He walks straight as a plum line,
Sometimes fluttered by the winds of age.
I see bone thin and bone hard,
His thick butcher’s hands,
Rippled with veins,
Marveled with twists of arthritis.
There is palsy in their grip
On the courthouse chair.
His legs shake lowering to sit.
It’s spring of 1893.
The winter of his years.
When encroachment on self
Threats condemnation to boredom.
He doesn’t know ahead,
But he does dare to guess.
He turns creaking neck to opposing table
Where his sons sit.
They do not look to him.
Llewellyn and Henry brought trail
To protect him from him.
And to whose end do they protect,
He sees their mother’s visage wandering
In ghostly features across their faces.
In 1854, at 38 years, death silenced her count of seconds.
Clara was birthed and died that winter,
And mother followed child into that chill.
Her name was Jane – Jane Brinton Darlington
Now old Daniel B. sits haunted by her semblance
In the faces of loved adversaries.
Time taps fingers upon the bar.
At the end of summer sizzle
Comes his lawyer’s heated cry:
“Great God, is it insanity to become old?
Is a man’s mind wrong because he is forgetful?”
The force of law declares
Mere weaknesses of mind not grounds
For commissions of insanity.
Daniel B. walks out as he walked in,
Straight and unbowed, a sane man still.
News note: “Died. – In West Chester, June 5, 1895, Daniel B., aged 87 years.”
Illustration: Court reporter sketch of Daniel B.