Two Judge Judy Poems by Jen Karetnick

Judge Judy Is Not Dr. Phil

she says, when a guest goes all confessional
on her, wrong show, she says, and I don’t care

with a sigh as sharp as any teenager’s.
Sometimes she dings her watch face, her fingernail

a manicured bird’s beak against impact glass.
Or when the case falls outside of civil law:

So what are you telling me for? There is no
emotional validation in front of this camera,

no backstory that could twist a strand of empathy
in any direction but back into its own nest.

After school, I binge-watched episodes for hours
when I should have been reading essays about shitty

homes and fucked-up lives, to show myself that I, too,
was not the reflection of such eternal conflict,

even though I pass for the body that helps define it,
my job not to judge but to bear witness for the record.

The Blathering Blues, as Performed by Judge Judy

This is only a half-hour program.
Thirty minutes—that’s it for this program.
Trust me, your life has not been a pogrom.

There’s always so much more to the story.
Every storm drain floods with a story;
it’s in my nature to be dry. Wary.

Pick it up here, not at the beginning.
I’m in the evening of your beginning.
Repetition is not entertaining.

This may be court, but it’s television.
People are real on this television
but your words are subject to my excision.

Forget the cameras, the director.
Time: Consider it your best editor.

Jen Karetnick is the author of five full-length poetry collections, including Hunger Until It’s Pain (Salmon Poetry 2023), The Burning Where Breath Used to Be (David Robert Books 2020),and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press2016), finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of Virginia Book Prize. She is also the author of five poetry chapbooks, including The Crossing Over (2019), winner of the 2018 Split Rock Review Chapbook Competition. Her poems have been awarded the Hart Crane Memorial Prize, the Romeo Lemay Poetry Prize, the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, and two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prizes, among others. Her work appears recently or is forthcoming in Barrow Street, The Comstock Review, december, Michigan Quarterly Review, Terrain, Under a Warm Green Linden, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Co-founder and managing editor of SWWIM Every Day, Jen is currently a Deering Estate Artist-in-Residence. Find her on Twitter @Kavetchnikor, Instagram @JenKaretnick, or see

Author photo: Zoe Cross

Image: “Judge Judy Shhh GIF” via gyfycat

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