Langston Hughes’ poem, “Who but the Lord?”–though explicitly written about and within a period of deep racial unrest in America and the fight for civil rights for African Americans–seems to strike a profound metaphorical chord within the theological discussion of the role of the law and the intense suffering, lament and doubt inhabiting the area between the work of the law and the beginning of grace.

lI looked and I saw
That man they call the Law.
He was coming
Down the street at me!
I had visions in my head
Of being laid out cold and dead,
Or else murdered
By the third degree.

I said, O, Lord, if you can,

Save me from that man!

Don’t let him make a pulp out of me!

But the Lord he was not quick.
The Law raised up his stick
And beat the living hell
Out of me!

Now, I do not understand
Why God don’t protect a man
From police brutality.
Being poor and black,
I’ve no weapon to strike back
So who but the Lord
Can protect me?

We’ll see.