Take the Stand—A Prompt For Witnessing

For this prompt, you are a witness to events, not the center of the action. Perhaps you are the omniscient narrator or, like me, always the unreliable. Either way, make us see what happened, blow by blow, who said what and who said nothing at all. Or maybe show us the gaps in your memory. Perhaps you turned away. Some days we all close eyes to injustice. Justify why you did not act or could not.

Perhaps the events occurred after you arrived, but you meet the perpetrator as in “The Colonel” by Carolyn Forché. Or maybe you stand in solidarity with the victims as Christopher Soto does in “In Support of Violence.” Perhaps the crimes occurred before you were born, but you carry the bruises in your DNA. Trauma is passed along with eye color. Share the family story. Would you pull the trigger or pour out the bottle if you had been there? Or would you choose all the pain that sparked you into being? Read “I Go Back to May 1937” by Sharon Olds for her answer.