[Because the room is the men’s]

Joshua Mensch

JH Gillis, 1994—Fall

Because the room is the men’s
       room just outside
the teachers’ lounge which has
       the cleanest seats
and I need to think about
       what’s clearly going
to happen next; because all eyes
       will turn to me, the one
who knew him best, and there
       will be no denying
anything, unless…; because
       my mind has been
trained to make exceptions, nothing
       is ever absolutely true;
because human beings apply
       their aberrations
unwittingly, inconsistently,
       judiciously; because
I can always say it didn’t happen
       to me and who could
prove it did?; because I’ll say
       I was the exception,
the one whose trust couldn’t be
       violated—or rather,
better, it was my father whose
       trust even Don
wouldn’t violate; because that
       will appeal
to my father’s vanity;
       because my mother
will blame herself in parallel
       to everyone else;
because her blame will be
       obvious, will be a truth
       because I know
one day I’ll have to come clean,
       but not yet;

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Joshua Mensch

Joshua Mensch is a poet, visual artist, and a founding editor of the literary journal B O D Y. He grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, and lives and works in Prague, Czech Republic.


New York, New York

Joshua Mensch’s devastating lyric memoir, Because, explores with extraordinary literary power and sophistication the toxic influence of adults who prey on the children in their care. Its story begins when Mensch is ten years old and first meets Don, the charming director a youth wilderness camp and a lifelong friend of his parents. What follows is a harrowing account of sexual and psychological abuse, told from the evolving perspective of a child entering adolescence. Because unfolds through a series of precise, jewel-like scenes that render the shifting and uncertain landscapes of childhood memory with vividness and precision. Its swift, convincing music, propelled by the litany of the word “because,” builds a heartbreaking tale of genuine power whose characters are as complex and fully realized as those in a novel. An unflinching take on the vulnerabilities and dangers of childhood, Because succumbs neither to self-pity nor platitudes, but instead finds consolation in the healing of its own narrative act.

“[Because] is a rare and remarkable text. Although it deals unswervingly with abuse, violations of trust and the deeply damaging effect of both of these, it is also literary, powerful, and consoling… A deeply achieved record of human truth, earned at cost and beautifully expressed.”
— Eavan Boland

“This book tore me apart: it is riveting, beautiful, and quietly devastating. Mensch is a gifted and unflinching poet, and he has one hell of a story to tell.”
— Patrick Phillips

“Unrelentingly obsessive… an achievement of sustained attention and imagination.”
— Michael Collier

“[A] disturbing, memorably and superbly handled book-length narrative poem… [Mensch] has an ear, he’s thoughtful, he’s subtle where subtle makes sense.”
—Stephanie Burt

“It in no way diminishes the power of physical wounds to recognize that psychic wounding represents its own palpable trauma, increased perhaps because the individual life of such pain is invisible and because the public knowledge of such pain too often exists in silence. ‘Because,’ in fact, is the word in Joshua Mensch’s ‘lyric memoir,’ an extended meditation on and examination of childhood sexual abuse. This deeply personal and profound poem may be the work of memory but its force is built from within our moment—a force enhanced through a strucgure of anaphora and a percussive length of line that insists on being heard.”
— Stanley Plumly

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