Jan/Feb 2022 • Vol. XLIV No. 1 Nonfiction |

Only the Basement

My sister believed that, as a girl, she’d been punished by being locked in the basement, in the dark. We spoke of this only once. We were young adults, sharing a rare moment of unguarded intimacy. I could tell from the way she referred to being locked in the basement that she believed that I knew exactly what she was referring to, and that I, too, remembered it. I didn’t contradict her. But I have no memory of it. I would have been three, four, and five when she was five, six, and seven, the years in which she claimed our parents had sometimes locked her in the basement. Though I believe my sister believed it, I don’t believe it, much. Now my sister, who either was or was not locked in a dark basement, is dead. And my father, who either did or did not lock my sister in a dark basement, is dead. And my mother, who either did or did not lock my sister in a dark basement, has lost her memory. My mother, regarding remembrance, is as good as dead. Now it’s the truth that’s

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Beth Ann Fennelly directs the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi, where she was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year. She’s won grants from the NEA and United States Artists. Her work has won a Pushcart Prize and three times been included in The Best American Poetry Series. Fennelly has published three books of poems and a book of essays with W. W. Norton. Her most recent book is The Tilted World, a novel she co-authored with her husband, Tom Franklin, published by HarperCollins. They live in Oxford with their three children.

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