Friday, March 25, 2016

Two Poems by Lucia Cordell Getsi

Intensive Care

A young resident walks me past my fear
to a small office and tells me to wait. I hear

nothing but the blood in my ears. Whenever I’ve needed
to prepare for something I cannot imagine, I’m led

to a small room like this, just down a hall
to the right, or left, sterile, functional

for waiting, then for hearing news. A phone blinks
its silent buttons, blue, red, pink,

my eye stick on the blue, the immaculate desk,
the chair where her father huddles, risking

his manhood to weep, to reach for my hand with hands
that fall like birds through trees, chin to chest to arm to land

on his knees, then dart back up to his face. I think I know
the next step like a memory, sorrow

pulling like an undertow to the central sea
of loss, emptying farther still into pools of grief

where I’ve buried my most beloved. Except this child
who keeps swimming out like a spirit called

back to the living, who has heard the songs of the dead
and hums them softly to me, under her breath.

I’ve heard that singing before, a breath
turned wrong side out, the rattle of death

in her lungs this morning.
                                                        I am called.
But nothing prepares me for what I see, my child

In her body of pain, hooked to machines. Grief
comes up like floodwater. Her body floats on a sea

of air that is her bed, a force field of sorrow
that pulls me to her side. I touch pain I know

I have never felt, move into a new land
of nightmare. She is so still. Only one hand

moves, fingers oscillate like water plants risking
the air. Machines line the desks,

the floor, the walls, confirm the deep pink
of her skin in rapidly ascending numbers. One eye blinks.

Then again. This must be language, a purely functional
spelling of speech. H-O-T. I sprint down the hall

for bags of ice, my breath swings like lead
in my chest. In seconds I’m the focus of need

so great I’ve forgotten any world but this one here.
I -L-O-V-E -Y-O-U, we spell. Even the alphabet tenses with fear.


You know marrow is deep, the most
inward trail, beneath the wedged
incision in your hip, past
flesh, the waste of muscle, all
connectives, through bone
the surgeon’s screw begins
the twisting dig

Elephants in their private
ritual lift the bones
of kin, the trunks swing
rhythms old as stones
and thunderous as jungle
rain, they carry remains
of family inward, from

You are turned to me, buried
in my arms. I hold your bones
and smooth your hair, my face
a mouth to kiss you, whisper
how gracefully elephants sway
toward the interior. The screw
grinds through your backbone, marrow
reddens in the light
                       and nothing kills
your pain, I cannot carry
you inside, your taut limbs, ivory
as petrified skin, slender
tusks, they tuck like family
in the vault
of my terrified embrace

Lucia Cordell Getsi has published four books of poetry: Teeth Mother Letters, Moonsquilt, 1984, 1993; Bottleships: for Daughters, Aquila, 1986; No One Taught This Filly to Dance, Pikestaff, 1989; Intensive Care, New Rivers Press, 1992.

Her poems have been published in such periodicals as The American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, Tamaqua, Mississippi Valley Review, The Laurel Review, Whetstone, Benchmark Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Southern California Anthology, Nimrod: Awards IX, and many others.

Can the Unions Bargain Away Constitutionally-Guaranteed Benefits through Consideration?

Simply stated, “Consideration is when a claimant promises something in exchange for the defendant’s promise, [or] the inducement to a contract, something of value given in return for a performance or a promise of performance by another, for the purpose of forming a contract…” (Law Dictionary).

Undeniably, “the consideration doctrine is a moving target, different [understandings will] yield different [interpretations]… Courts have considerable latitude in determining whether to find consideration (or not), and hence whether to enforce a promise (or not)… [Nonetheless], it would be highly undesirable to allow public officials to extract benefits in return for the performance of their existing legal duties” (National University of Singapore Professor Mindy Chen-Wishart, Contract Law).

In Illinois, the Supreme Court “has consistently invalidated amendments to the Pension Code where the result is to diminish benefits” (McNamee v. State, 173 Ill. 2d 433, 445 (1996)). “Any alteration of the pension system amounts to a modification of an existing contract between the State (or one of its agencies) and all members of the pension system, whether employees or retirees. A member is contractually protected against a reduction in benefits” (Kuhlmann v. Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund of Maywood, 106 Ill. App. 3d 603, 608 (1st Dist. 1982)).

Here are three more irrefutable arguments in Illinois:

2014   Kanerva v. Weems (July 3)

The Pension Protection Clause makes it “clear that if something qualifies as a benefit of the enforceable contractual relationship resulting from membership in one of the State’s pension or retirement systems, it cannot be diminished or impaired… [The State of Illinois or anyone else] may not rewrite the Pension Protection Clause to include restrictions and limitations that the drafters did not express and the citizens of Illinois did not approve... [P]ension benefits are insulated from diminishment or impairment by the General Assembly…” (Kanerva, 2014 IL 115811, 38, 41, 48).

2015   MARY J. JONES et al., Appellees, v. MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES’ ANNUITY AND BENEFIT FUND OF CHICAGO et al., Appellants. (March 24)

“…In this case, it is undisputed that the unions were not acting as authorized agents within a collective bargaining process. Thus, we need not resolve whether the vote taken by union representatives as expressed in the Brandon affidavit bound members of the Funds in a collective bargaining process. Rather, we agree with the trial court that ‘these negotiations were no different than legislative advocacy on behalf of any interest group supporting collective interests to a lawmaking body.’ The individual members of the Funds have done nothing that could be said to have unequivocally assented to the new terms or to have ‘bargained away’ their constitutional rights. Accordingly, nothing in the legislative process that led to the enactment of the Act constituted a waiver of the Funds members’ constitutional rights under the pension protection clause… The judgment of the circuit court declaring Public Act 98-641 to be unconstitutional and permanently enjoining its enforcement is affirmed.” 

2015   Doris Heaton, et al. v. Pat Quinn, in his capacity as Governor of the State of Illinois, et al.  (May 8)

“…The concerns of the delegates who drafted article XIII, section 5, and the citizens who ratified it have proven to be well founded. Even with the protections of that provision, the General Assembly has repeatedly attempted to find ways to circumvent its clear and unambiguous prohibition against the diminishment or impairment of the benefits of membership in public retirement systems. Public Act 98-599 is merely the latest assault in this ongoing political battle against public pension rights. As we noted earlier, through that legislation the General Assembly is attempting to do once again exactly what the people of Illinois, through article XIII, section 5, said it has no authority to do and must not do… The judgment of the circuit court declaring Public Act 98-599 to be unconstitutional and permanently enjoining its enforcement is affirmed.”

The above three cases are cited In the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois (Docket No. 118585): In re Pension Reform Litigation (Doris Heaton et al., Appellees, v. Pat Quinn, Governor, State of Illinois, et al., Appellants). The  opinion was filed May 8, 2015. Justice Karmeier delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion. 

Unions cannot bargain away the vested rights and constitutionally-guaranteed benefits of retirees.

“…[A] contract right becomes vested when the employee has fulfilled all of the necessary qualifications and obligations for enjoyment of the right, [as in the case of retirees]. Lawrence, 152 Ill. App. 3d at 197-98 (quoting Kulins, 121 Ill. App. 3d at 525-27); see also Navlet v. Port of Seattle, 194 P.3d 221, 237 (Wash. 2008) (en banc)… Where all of the requisite specifications for the present or future enjoyment of a right have been achieved, the right is considered to be vested…” Black’s Law Dictionary 1699 (9th ed. 2009). (qtd. in Matthews v. CTA, 2016 IL 117638).  

-Glen Brown