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Witness to an Unfortunate Incident

A paused video. Because I was watching.

I am not a cop. I simply could not stop watching.

The young women in uniform were not trying to be mean.

The naked bodies of the old women were blurred.

The old women, struggling, crying out, simply

did not understand the importance of being cleaned.

The young women in uniform were simply doing their jobs.

It was no one’s fault. The nurse explained.

I simply could not stop watching. I did not cry out.

The old woman, her naked body blurred, was only partly cleaned.

But she wanted them to stop. She cried out. She struggled.

And her chair simply tipped over. That was clear.

Then they paused the video. No one looked at me. I left.

I do not know what happened to the old woman after.

I am not a cop. I know my mother cries out, frightened.

I know that it is important to be clean.


Mary Elizabeth Birnbaum was born, raised, and educated in New York City. Her translation of the Haitian poet Felix Morisseau-Leroy has been published in The Massachusetts Review, the anthology Into English (Graywolf Press), and in And There Will Be Singing, An Anthology of International Writing by The Massachusetts Review, 2019. Her work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in Lake Effect, Spoon River Poetry Review, Barrow Street, and a past issue of J Journal.


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