Then, his captors transferred him to another unlawful detention facility, apparently maintained by Ukraine’s Security Service personnel. Vadim spent another six weeks there inunacknowledgeddetentionwithout any contact with the outside world.
Human Rights Watch

 

I

What trouble am I in.
What love.
Do you wield to make me forget.
Take the veil of tenderness down.
Or lift it.
Take the village out of the country it enables.
Am I honorable.
When will I know what version of honor you will be.
When will you come to my chest.
To open it.
Within it are all the blankets one receives when one has a child and the child dies.
Do you pray.
Often people pray for someone.
Even when that someone doesn’t want to be prayed for.
I think that is a violence.
Please god if you are real you are the faces of other people, please stop intervening
I want to see them.

Or should I say remove yourself.
From between us.
Why did you not pray with me.
Why did you not lay your voice over mine.
Like linen.
Do you remember the night you beat the pillows I had shaped beneath the covers.
I was trying to fool you into thinking it was my body.
That I was still there.
And asleep.
And do you remember how it was my body after all.

 

II

You give me a pail with sudsy liquid and a brush made for horses.
I am to clean the walls, make them better.
Instead I rub the suds on my eyes and see my mother leaning towards me over the bathtub.
I put the suds in my mouth.
It tastes like onion or crepe or blotting paper.
Like a fly.
Shriveling up under the spray of chemicals.
When you first brought me here you asked if I was hiding currency.
In any orifice.
You checked the pinhole at the end of my penis, my anal cavity.
Deep into my ear canal.
For wadded-up bills.
For any trace of the flattened pillow from years of sleeping.
Next to my wife.
Each night a repetition, a squat or curl, the muscle of sleeping next to her getting stronger.
Until I could sleep next to her without.
Remembering how.
I think this is called muscle memory, which you also searched my orifices for.
You meaning they.
There were so many of you.
Rooting around for what I couldn’t remember because I had done it so many times.

 

III

My mouth without the originals.
Can’t cut the exact.
Words that would work.
That would open the lock on what you want me to say.
That I’ve said or done or what I’ve heard others say or what I’ve seen others doing.
All those times you coyly turned your pointer and thumb.
Against your lips.
And tossed away the imaginary key.
I need that key now that I’m interrogating myself.
With your silence.
Now that my mouth keeps missing.
The borscht on the table my grandfather made with his dexterous enormous animal hands.
My hands under my thighs.
To keep them warm and from touching.
My face for the thousandth time.
This minute.

 

IV

Define crowded.
It used to mean there were too many of us in a cell.
Now it means too few.
Who deserves what is.
Given to them or received.
You once gave me a photograph of people I didn’t know.
You said that they had come with the frame.
To give them life I make up backstories filled with incredible losses,
the kind one reads about
or watches on made-for-TV movies.
I give them all children they can’t help themselves from imagining.
Falling down stairs.
Or being shot by a sibling.
I give them all beds to snap awake in and partners to roll over.
Do you know what time it is.
Do I know what day it is.
How long I’ve been here.
I punch the light, swipe at it with my fists, once for every day it has had the audacity
to penetrate my cell window.
To find me here, vulnerable and unshaven.
Light is impatient, light is unkind. It is wanton and reckless. It thinks it can warm my skin
having set over the lake without me.
I might as well search it as I have been searched.
Its cavities for any sign of god.
Strip it so that it is not darkness, so that, without the garments of hope or justice or truth
we make it wear, it shivers a little in only what it is, just light.

 

V

I consist of small rooms.
Containing proteins, nucleic acids, the threshold you.
Crossed to take my parents in, my sister, the neighbors also as a precaution
for preliminary questioning or none of them are here and you tell me this to see
how much my small rooms can take, how much taking my membranes can withstand
before provoking some feeling from within, the feeling like a mallet strike
against the gong I struck when I was young and the man at the pizza parlor
bid me to come hit the gong as hard as I could, the louder the more free
or the less money we would pay for the pizzas, is that in here, in my small rooms.
Do I contain them, the empty pizza boxes, the grease-stained and unable
to be recycled, but stacked up along the sides and in the corners of me.
Some still with their three-pronged little white plastic tables sitting in the center
or slid sideways or kicked over, my parents and neighbors and sister
surprised at such an outburst, are we not here to take him home, they ask.
Leaning in closer, practically within my small rooms, you say I told them
you weren’t here, your breath like stagnant water in which mosquitoes
have laid their eggs, the winter not cold enough to kill them.
When I’m asleep one crawls up a nostril so far that the small room
between my eyes burns and tingles as if it were being etched into.
How many days the mosquito had been held captive when all it had wanted
was to suck my memory of the pizza boxes, the image of my parents and sister
so lasting that, when I laid down to rest, to escape this cell for my cells
where I’m still holding the mallet, where the gong still allows us
more pizza than we would have been able to afford, my small rooms
exude an odor that draws the mosquito into them to feed.

 

VI

Along the sides of the hallway are every computer I’ve ever used.
At the public library, at the office, at kiosks in the mall to order button-down shirts,
and the one from home with its distinctive scratches.
Each computer like a dollhouse.
I’d move my toy body within until it was time to sleep or drive or speak.
And I had to set myself down, my toy arms still extended.
We found nothing on these computers you say, so we’re going to charge you
with not having anything to charge you with.
My little neighborhood disappoints me.
Or would had I the conviction to be disappointed anymore.
Had I only written incriminating emails or searched using incriminating terms.
I’d have something tangible to renounce.
Like a droplet of food coloring I could keep diluting.
With pledges of allegiance.
Until it was indiscernible to the naked eye.
I would not seek retribution.
I can easily be made an example of.
My wife and parents and sister make me pliable because I am afraid of losing them,
of them losing me again even though we wouldn’t know it as losing.
We’d know it as gaining, I’d be gaining shame.
Like the bumpers at the bowling alley.
Like the lights along the landing strip.
You, then you, then you, then you, then you lit up.
Guiding me down.

 

VII

Through the open doors of a helicopter a scrap of paper flits.
I dream that I’m that paper.
A nagging voice.
In one ear.
And out the other.
Having signed the confession you prepared.