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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 25, 2016.
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

Persistence of Vision: Televised Confession

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.

Copyright © 2016 by Solmaz Sharif. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Solmaz Sharif. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Solmaz Sharif

Solmaz Sharif

Solmaz Sharif’s first poetry collection, LOOK (Graywolf Press, 2016), was a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry.

by this poet


Your knives tip down
in the dish rack
of the replica plantation home,
you wash hands

with soaps pressed into seahorses
and scallop shells white
to match your guest towels,
and, like an escargot fork,

you have found the dimensions
small enough to break
a man—



Friends describe my DISPOSITION

as stoic. Like a dead fish, an ex said. DISTANCE

is a funny drug and used to make me a DISTRESSED PERSON,

one who cried in bedrooms and airports. Once I bawled so hard at the border, even the man with the stamps and holster said Don’t cry. You’


Everywhere we went, I went
in pigtails
no one could see—

ribbon curled
by a scissor’s sharp edge,
the bumping our cars

undertook when hitting
those strips
along the interstate

meant to shake us
awake. Everywhere we went
horses bucking