she was looking but not looking


just beyond the naked boys

being beaten by their mother

an angry monster

with a smoker's cackle


and in this way the

boys looked only like

twisted shadows of pain

cast against the wall


she was listening but not listening


to the sounds of abuse

a dark tune in her head

the steady beat of leather

against broken flesh


and in this way the

piercing wails seemed

more like high pitched echoes

ringing from afar


she was there but not there


bearing witness to nothing

anyone cared about -

was it a secret if no one

wanted to know?


and in this way it

never really happened

not even when she tried

to mention it to her parents


she learned but did not comprehend


years later, the allegory of

the caves, which for her classmates

was just a theory, but for her

was her childhood, her world


quavering shadows on a dim wall

distorted echoes of reality

her place among the darkly chained

what she knew about life for so long



Janet McGinness read National Geographic as a girl, wore the same jacket every day of junior high, was blown away by SI Hayakawa’s Language in Thought and Action in high school and memorized passages from Faulkner during college. She hasn’t changed much.



Janet McGinness



        April 2018

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