Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Regarding Others’ Pain

Something becomes real—to those who are elsewhere, following it as “news”—by being photographed.
—Susan Sontag

She sat on the windowsill
one leg thrown over the green sash
like riding a horse.

The men in the room talked
quietly and she ignored them,
watching a car slow,

the driver leering at her bare leg
and bumping the curb.
He was a doctor or something,

doffing his hat to her neighbor in curlers
on the porch in her nightie.
Mornings the grackles were loud,

and the men grew loud as they spoke
of a burgeoning civil war
and what should be done.

They were all white, and argued
as if the force of their words
had a power they might activate,

driving a solution no one anywhere
imagined. They did not think
about how they sounded.

So full of, she thought, confidence
definitely not her forte—
holding the belief

that words mattered was ir-
resistible when they got
going. She’d never before

not believed them. Now they
couldn’t agree. She’d seen
the pictures of those

thousands insistently refused
refuge, insisting; and observed
how in telling daily

moments the simple
small cruelties proved all
but imperceptibly tempting,

the gentle maneuver of with-
holding something, the
kindly (so it seemed)

delivery of no, the half
smile of regret, like a door
shown, after which,

the cutting the person
cold to shame, to
show them who had

the power, or that when one—
calling himself a leader—
yelled out out out

he meant business. Then
people hopped to expel
the outsider whose

mouth—as the crowd
pushed with its pincered
mind—was a perfect O.  

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