Issue > Poetry
Elizabeth Onusko

Elizabeth Onusko

Elizabeth Onusko is the author of Portrait of the Future with Trapdoor (Red Paint Hill, 2016). Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Sun, Bennington Review, Columbia Poetry Review, The Southeast Review, Poetry Northwest, and Tupelo Quarterly, among others. She edits Foundry, and her website is

Sad Human Voice

Often my attention falls on people and objects
without my conscious awareness
and suddenly I'll be seconds-deep into studying

the curve of a sleeping infant's eyelashes
or the sculptural qualities of a tissue
partly pulled out of a box

before perceiving what I'm seeing.
Most beauty, like most pain,
is small and unacknowledged.

The thought used to make me cry.
Not anymore. When I want to, I can't.
I miss the endorphins.

The faint tightness of tears drying on my cheeks.
The sense of resolution
though nothing changed.

I last wept months ago
during a commercial for an animal rescue charity.
Dogs pawed at cages

while a sad human voice whispered
Set me free
and repeated a 1-800 number.

Earlier that day, I'd stopped at a red light near a raceway.
In front of me was a trailer.
A muzzle was visible between the metal slats.

Like most things I find upsetting,
I delayed reckoning with it
for as long as my body would allow.

I haven't sobbed since, not even the next morning in the park
when I came across a carriage horse
whose eyes were tainted wells.

No one else noticed them,
least of all the people in the carriage
taking pictures of foliage with their phones.


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