Joshua Weiner

“To Disturb Profoundly the Senses”

‘an unclassified narrative’ from the Office of Legal Counsel, for the President

August 2002 – May 2005

“You have asked for the standards of conduct. For an act to constitute it must inflict what actions reach the threshold of ‘choice’ that is difficult to endure. Drawing distinctions among gradations (for example, severe, mild, moderate, substantial, extreme, intense, excruciating, or agonizing) is obviously not an easy task. We think the meaning of ‘severe’ is relatively straight forward a totality-of-the-circumstances approach; reservations, understandings, declarations deterioration of language function an impermissible rewriting the inability to retain any new information. Obsessions are intrusive thoughts positioned against the walling wall. Such compulsions or obsessions must be ‘time consuming.’

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(The avoidance canon has special force)

Our starting point 
must be the language 
to watch the torture of others.

This canon of construction

some sort of escalating fashion, culminating with 
though not 
necessarily ending with 

                    the uncertainty of what will happen next

the only way he can influence 
his surrounding environment 
where statutes couple words or phrases, 
‘the mere mention of which sends chills down one’s spine.’

We also understand that you do not have any 
facts in your possession 
contrary to the facts 
outlined here
which may ultimately be 

useful to us 
when pieced together,
you on-site psychologists!

Ten techniques that you believe 
will dislocate 

generally lose 
their effectiveness 
after several repetitions


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of course, in no way 
are intended 
to be [an] exhaustive list.

Z. showed signs of 
symptomatic nervous system 
arousal, which you think was 

under this calculus
the nation’s right 
to self-defense 
has been 
to take a specific act out of context
(the ‘chiffon’ method)
and buttress the inference.

An individual 
placed in 

the box

even an individual 
with a fear of 

would not 
feel threatened 

with severe 
physical pain 
or suffering 

a caterpillar 

was placed
in the box.

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‘Other’ signals 
that the words to which it attaches 
are of the same kind, type, or class 
as the more specific item previously listed:

You would like to place Z. in a cramped confinement box with an insect.

There are no cases that analyze what the lowest boundary of what constitutes 

fear, or melancholy

a good faith belief
what is already obvious from the texts.

In the same motion of the 
grasp, the individual 
is drawn 
toward the interrogator—
the ‘emotional love approach’.

We reach this conclusion based on 
the clear language 
that there can be no limitation 

to try to define the precise meaning
would cross the threshold

that permissible meaning which fits most logically and comfortably into the body.”

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Author’s Note: “To Disturb Profoundly the Senses” is a deconstructed appropriation of material from the so-called “Torture Memos” penned by the Bush Six at the Office of Legal Counsel.

JOSHUA WEINER is the author of three books of poetry, The World’s Room, From the Book of Giants, and most recently, The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish (2013), and is the editor of At the Barriers: On the Poetry of Thom Gunn. He is a recipient of the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2013-2014). His poems and essays have appeared in Best American Poetry, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, The American Scholar, Village Voice, Chicago Tribune, The New Republic, Threepenny Review, Poetry, Washington Post, Slate, and elsewhere. He teaches at the University of Maryland and lives with his family in Washington DC.

Read more work by Joshua Weiner:

Two poems in B O D Y
Poems and an interview at Blackbird
Poem at American Life in Poetry
Poems and articles at The Poetry Foundation
Joshua Weiner reading with Emily Berry for the Transatlantic Poetry series
B O D Y‘s review of A Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish