The Everyday Torturer By Jay S Zimmerman

Introduction: Jacob Timerman wrote and published his most well-known book, Prisoner Without A Name, Cell Without a Number (1981) recalling events in Argentina when people were disappeared for opposing the government and included his own experience of being imprisoned and tortured. This poem comes from my feelings as I tried to imagine myself in that circumstance, a circumstance that occurs all too frequently around the world when people stand in opposition to oppression.


The sound of heavy boots

They grabbed you, screaming

Dragged you

Your feet grasping at the dirt

As they pulled you

Through the garden

Leaving a trail of all those

You loved

Of the places you met for coffee

Or shopped for vegetables

They simply disappeared you


I wrote an editorial

Grieving your loss

And losses of so many others

Flowers in the ashes

And then, one late night, I too

Heard the boots

Crushing the flowers

As they came for me

And disappeared me


I lie here on a table


In a naked room


One small window

A light bulb

Tied down, afraid


As he whips

The bottoms of my feet

Asking questions

I cannot  and will not answer

As he pulls fingernails

Methodically, the same questions

Over and over

Tossing water on my body

Shocking my genitals


The phone rings

Through the screaming

Of my pain

I can hear him talking to his wife


I imagine her caressing voice

As he agrees to bring home

Milk and cakes

For a moment I can taste the cake

Feel her softness

I try to hold these inside

As he says “ I love you

Kiss the children for me”

hangs up the phone

And again methodically

attends to my flesh

2 thoughts on “The Everyday Torturer By Jay S Zimmerman

  1. Loved this one Jay. Years ago, I was too deeply into these pages of history and I really liked the way you bring them back. Also, this reminds me of Kashmir where “disappearance” has become a similar reality for quite some time. Mothers of Kashmir can certainly relate to those of plaza de mayo de Buenos Aires. Nunca Mas? Who says? The dirty war is not just mere history.


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