Veiled Voices | The New Engagement

Veiled Voices

By Benin Lemus
Veiled Voices story art
Headline from Every Newspaper in America:
“Family Still Looking for Answers”


Look all you want. Answers are nowhere near you.
Locked away in a drawer, no entry.
The night in question has an answer-
All the hostages- surveillance, dashcam, reports, cellphone footage,
Not helpful. Will only confuse you. We need more time.
Look yourself into a frenzy. Panic,
demand to watch it all, frame by frame.
We aren’t ready to release.


They want you to remain calm but no doubt, the answer is
safe, tucked under the uniform.
They will touch it ever so often to check if it is still there,
out of sight of the
Your prying eyes
are diverted to questions-
Why was he...How long had she...What did she…


The answers are far, far from you.
As far as the distance from earth to Mars wrapped three,
four times around,
Far. You can see the truth,
just beyond your desperate grasp.


Truth is a red plumed bird: majestic and regal
and rare.
Look all you want, you can see it for yourself,
but they will never let you touch it.


“The Neighbors”


It was a mistake-

A solecism.

But the tongue only serves

what the heart holds. Indelicately,

Those people slips into the conversation.

It muscles its way in ahead of

concern, compassion, like a bully

unraveling decency. Thread caught on a nail.

It is too late to retrieve it, and your

face registers the panic of guilt. Full frontal

bigotry. The neighbors, too polite, offer silence.

Right at this moment,

you are unseen. And

Those people are giants against your forked sword.


The incision leaves a bloated stench. Verbal permeability,

leaking whatever it was

you meant to say.


(That One Time My Neighbor Stopped Taking Her Medication)


She asks if it’s me.

If I am breaking into her apartment

-entering without permission-

to hang blue string from the lamp to the kitchen,

and back to the window.

No, it’s  not.

She stares-

Distant, suspicious.

I blink.

I am not lying, just scared.

Okay she mumbles. Low, like a drying reservoir.

If you see someone-

Yes, I will let you know.

She pulls on her cigarette and blows white,

hot menthol in my face.


She thinks I am lying, but won’t admit it.

Must be a magician in the neighborhood.

I don’t respond.

I am going to stay up all night until I catch him.

Good idea.

I am lying.

She vanquishes the cigarette underneath her sandal.

I nod my head.

I will let you know-

Disgusted, she lights another menthol.

Thank you. I know it’s a trick- I just can’t see how it’s done.


Benin Lemus is a teacher, poet, and essayist. She is a fall 2016 mentee with AWP’s Writer-to-Writer mentorship program. Benin has written and performed work for Center Theater Group’s Community as Partners program. She teaches writing to high school students and is confident in their ability to create positive change in the world through the written word and service. Benin is at work on her first poetry collection that explores compassion and radical forgiveness in the face of racial violence and genocide. She lives in South Los Angeles with her family.

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