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Persistence of Vision: Televised Confession
by Solmaz Sharif

You are like a daughter
to me—the prisoner’s
mother tells me. Meal by
meal she sets then clears. She

rinses some tablewear
the prisoner never
held, then a glass she did,
then recalls her daughter’s

mouth opening softly
to drink water on state-
run TV, then water
over everything. The

glass appears in hundreds
of frames before reaching
the prisoner’s lips. In
between each frame, the grief

our eyes jump to create
movement: dark strips to keep
sharp the glass lip, water
skin trembling, hand that

trembles it. These mothers
move as flipbooks, tiny,
stuttering pasts, sobbing
at the sink. It is death

that sharpens our sight each
sixteenth second, slender,
blocking enough light so
that the prisoner’s face

is again and again
alive each light-punctured
frame, her mouth: in hundreds
of stills is still opening

softly to drink.


About This Poem

“The last time you see your loved one is on TV, giving a forced confession, broken, but you look, maybe, for the loved one you could recognize, who is not broken and reading the state-sponsored script—drinking a glass of water, perhaps. You want to slow this down and replay it. You see if grief itself had a cadence, it would be harshly syllabic—broken, sobbing—a flip book, a slowed down film reel of still frames.”
—Solmaz Sharif

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