for Justice V.C.R.A.C. Crabbe

This poem was recited to Justice V.C.R.A.C Crabbe on 28th January 2016 after successful completion of a two-week legislative drafting course at Diani, Mombasa, Kenya.


we went out in search of meaning
subjects and predicates guiding us
dangling modifiers sounding our alarm
because we felt that ambiguity
would aid the man with “bad faith”

we wrestled to bring clarity
believing that, though brevity be the soul of wit,
it wasn’t the soul of legislative drafting
believing, too, that precision called us
to test our sentences

we shunned all legal mumbo-jumbo
for we believed that English should be plain
herein, heretofore, preceding, aforementioned,
notwithstanding, whatsoever, wheresoever, whosoever,
whomsoever- these we shoveled out of the Statute
because we thought that law should be understood

we remember many times arguing about a comma
for we know that a misplaced comma freed a criminal
or worse, sent an innocent man to jail

our labour is in words
legal subject, legal action,
conditions, cases
we midwife the “legislative intention”

here, we lay our lives bare,
we don’t say it
but there are times we have stood still on the road
willing concrete words

our Bills have been denounced by
every Lycurgus and Solon, as warned by Lord Thring,
for being “crude”, “undigested measure”
“a monument of ignorance and stupidity”
but this spurs us on
for we believe in the Rule of Law.

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