One hundred fifty years for Madoff
are surely an untimely trade-off
for billions that he ripped off traders,
abetted by his trading aiders
like Ezra Merkin, for example,
whose clients used to love to sample
the high returns they would earn,
invested Ponzily by Bern,
whom they believed to be a wizard
before their money in a blizzard
blew away without a trace
in the Wall Street marketplace.
Measuring his measured time,
those who’ve suffered from his crime
will find that such revenge is not
as sweet as they might hope. No knot
is tied around his neck, though they
might hope there would be one. Each day
that he survives they feel the pain
of loss from their aborted gain,
but money won’t come back again
despite their punitive disdain,
so prison has to be the trade-off
for fortunes they all lost to Madoff.
Lock him up and throw away
the key, vindictive people say,
as if the freedom they deprive
him of will help them to survive,
though barring of the prison gate
will in no way redeem their fate.
Serving at the haughty pleasure
of a judge is no fair measure
for measure. Custody vendettas
transform the judges to abettors
of the worst hubristic crime:
purloining, like death’s angel, time,
so prisoners are forced to dwell
outside the real world, in a cell.
Life sentences that judges give
are proof that they’ve failed to forgive
the trespasses of other men
as God will ours, we hope. Amen.
Inspired by the Judge Denny Chin’s sentence of Bernie Madoff to 150 years for having committed what was perhaps the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Judge Chin, a Princeton graduate who was born in Hong Kong, and appointed to the bench by President Clinton, says that he received a hundred letters recommending that Madoff be severely punished, and not a single letter arguing for clemency. Such unanimity invalidates a capital case, according to Jewish law, where a death sentence may not be fulfilled unless some judges dissent with the verdict.
While I wrote this poem, my genius granddaughter Ada, who is considered to be less a genius than her sister Eve, presumably because she is a poet and the world despises poets, wrote her first poem, which she called “Heart and Flowerbed”.