By making a “footnote” on the “Amnesty Report” or official pardoning report on torture, the speaker infers that there is more behind war than what is publicized. Using the unusual perspective of a cleaner, illustrating vivid details, and describing the mental effects of being in that heinous environment, the speaker clearly indicates that society takes the acts of war and secret investigations very lightly because of the way the acts are portrayed, and even hidden by the media and the government.
Whenever one thinks of war, torture is not one of the first things that come to mind; yet, it is an essential piece of an enormous puzzle. The speaker begins the poem by saying that “the torture chamber is not like anything you would have expected.” The speaker then lists the various exploited images that the media portrays a chamber such as one with “sexy chains and leather-goods from glossy magazines” or a “thirties horror dungeon with gauzy cobwebs”. But then the speaker says that the chamber could then be compared to a “seedier (discreditable)/British Railways stations, with scratched green/ walls and spilled tea, /crumpled papers, and a stooped man/ who is always cleaning the floor.”
Utilizing the perspective of a cleaner of the torture chambers is a unique way to portray the meaning of the poem because it is both unusual and enlightening. By seeing what effects it has on his life, the audience is shown the severity of torture and is reminded of how much they actually do not know about what goes on in day-to-day warfare or secret investigations.
The speaker uses vivid descriptions of the things that the cleaner sees everyday in order to draw the audience in. “He isn’t a torturer, he only/ cleans the floor:/ every morning the same vomit, the same shed teeth, the same/ piss and liquid shit, the same panic.” Repeating “the same” along with the descriptive details and vulgar diction gives the audience a clear picture of what type of environment that the cleaner must endure. It also allows the audience to further wonder “what exactly happens to those being tortured?” The audience receives some answers in the next two stanzas.
Towards the end of the poem, the speaker describes how working in this environment affects the cleaner mentally. On one hand, the cleaner is glad that he has a job and can provide for his family. However, he is suffering mentally. He cannot share any details with his wife about what happens at his job or his feelings, which takes toll on his sense of reality. Bottling up his emotions and doing his job is what he must continue to do in order to provide. The last two stanzas indicate that the cleaner’s reality is warped so much that he has trouble seeing and enjoying what little joys –his children— he actually has. This is because he is living a separate life filled with the unimaginable horrors that are either hidden or justified by our government and the media in “amnesty reports”.