Posts Tagged ‘lie’

First Lie




inside the lie

was a beautiful truth

that grew a white beard

and a giant belly

and though it preferred

to go barefoot

it stepped into shiny black boots

and moved north—

so far north that no one

could find it—

and buried itself

in snow and surrounded

itself with elves and candy

and increasingly elaborate stories,

stories so lovely that for a while

the lie began to believe itself,

until one day

a girl walked right up to it

and said to it,

Tell me the truth

and the snow melted

and the beard fell out

and the elves turned back

into evergreen trees

and the boots did their best

to erase their tracks,

and the truth stood there

naked and said,

There is so much joy

in giving,

and the girl cried

and cried,

longing for the lie.

I just want there to be real magic,

she said.

And the truth

held out its

beautiful hand

and said,

This, too, is magic.

It was years

before the girl

could listen.

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The hope that is left after all your hopes are gone—that is pure hope, rooted in the heart.

            —Brother David Steindl-Rast



And so tonight when my daughter says to me,

Mom, are you Santa Claus? I ask her if it

would make a difference, and she says, Yes.


I don’t want him to just be a hoax for making

kids be good. And I say, I’ve never thought of Santa

that way. I think of him as generous. And magic.


And she says, But magic’s not real, and I say,

Some magic is. And she says, Well, it would

make sense. You always know what we want


because you’re the mom. And I tell her,

It is my great privilege to work for Santa,

and she says, What do you mean? And I say,


Well, you know, buying presents. And she says,

Why do you think he didn’t bring us a big present

this year, like he did last year? And I hear


in her voice, against all fact, hope,

the hope that lingers when hope is gone,

a pure hope, the hope that goodness is real,


that there is generosity beyond comprehension,

that some magic is real. She rolls over in the dark.

I keep hope rooted in my heart.


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Circle Time



The teacher is singing, her voice

a bluegreen moss that softens the room.

I don’t know why I make a fist,

but I let my left hand land

on the back of the boy beside me.


It makes a sweet thump, as if

he is hollow inside. And I like it,

the sound of that thump.

And I do it again. And I do it

again, my fist a warm stamp


on his silence. The teacher

is singing, her voice a leaf

that whirls through the room,

and I hit him again, not

to hurt him, but because


the thump sounds so good.

The teacher stops singing.

She looks at me and the boy

and asks us what is happening.

He is hitting me, I say,


and the boy does not say no.

She sends him to the corner

to sit alone. This is when I learn

to lie. Beside me, the space

on the rug is silent as wool.


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and the mouth puckers

into sweet distress

as if saying something kind

while the mind kicks the tongue

and says liar, liar.

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When they ask what you did this morning,

tell them, “Oh, nothing much.”

When they say, “What are you doing tomorrow,”

shrug and say, “Oh, I’m busy.

We have plans.” That is true.

Say goodbye today as if you mean it.

Do not mention the cake, the balloons, the gift.

I know. It’s hard to keep a secret.

And just when you think you would burst

if you could, remind yourself

it’s for their own good.

Tell yourself, it is better this way.

No. Sweetheart. Forget what I say.

If it’s not a surprise, that’s okay.

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Little Lie

Today it’s blessing fine enough I did
not fall and break my favorite crystal vase,
I did not choke, nor lose my daughter’s place
in her new chapter book. I didn’t trip
on fallen logs while running, did not flip
my car. I didn’t die, did not replace
my toothpaste with the Preparation H,
I didn’t drop a baby, didn’t slip.

And as for that sweet thing you didn’t say
that I had wished you might have said, it’s so
okay, that detail seems extremely small
amidst these other blessings of the day,
it’s no big deal you didn’t say it—no
big deal. I barely noticed it at all.

*If this looks familiar, it is … it’s an older poem I turned into a sonnet …

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I know you’re kinda mad I’m late. I’m sorry,
but you see there was this tiger trapped
up high inside a tree who offered me
a cherry tart if only I would help
him down. What could I do? It just did not
seem right to leave him stranded there. And so
I asked a large tarantula to weave
a silken net to catch the tiger when
he leapt. Well, she was tired from having laid
nine hundred eggs the day before, but when
she heard about the tart, she said she’d try.
A tern and toucan flying by said they
would help me hold the net to catch the tiger
when she leapt. What luck! I didn’t know
they lived around here. Anyway, a toad
in a tiara started teasing them.
He said our plan would never work, that birds
would not be strong enough to catch a tiger.
That’s when the triceratops came rambling
by and said he’d help us, too. But he
began to sneeze, his allergies were acting
up, perhaps it was the tulips? Or
the toadstool? I don’t know. The bummer was
he sneezed so much he had to go. The toucan
and the tern, offended by the toad,
flew off. They said, “A tart is not enough
for this abuse!” So there I sat beneath
the tiger, not sure what to do. That’s when
a turtle sat beside me and suggested
we could use his thimble as a diving
pool. The tiger had his doubts until
he saw a trout tail swish inside the thimble.
And he dove! And landed with a splash!
And came up with the trout between his teeth!
The bad news is he left the tart up in
the tree. And then the grumpy toad began
to throw tomatoes at the turtle. And
at me! And so I ran the whole way home.
I don’t know where the tiger’s gone—he mentioned
wanting to audition for a band.
He said he plays the triangle. It’s weird,
I know. So weird I worried that you’d not
believe me. I thought maybe I should lie
and tell you that I’m late because I didn’t
want to leave my friend’s house in the middle
of our game. But lying is so rude.
I knew that you’d appreciate the truth.

*This is a T poem for Lian Canty’s Alphabet Menagerie, http://www.alphabetmenagerie.com

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Song of Lies

An l-poem for Lian Canty’s Alphabet Menagerie, http://www.alphabetmenagerie.com

only one of these things is true

The ladybug lost its polka dots
while gazing at the moon.
And the lizard dusted the piano
while the clouds serenaded the loon.

The luna moth hitchhiked to France,
and the lemons went on strike—
they said they were tired of being so sour.
The lark bunting read limericks all night.

Well that kept awake the lady slipper
who was planted in earth with no dirt,
and the lemmings all ran in circles
and made pacts that no one would get hurt.

Meanwhile the lightning decided to stay
where it was in the sky for an hour,
and all the children gave up lollipops—
said they’d rather just sniff flowers.

The lunar landscape, bored with cheese,
made all the craters Jello.
And the wide-eyed snuggly loris
had poison in the sides of its elbows

so that anyone who touched it would die
from anaphylactic shock.
That’s the thing about a lie—
it’s only funny till it’s not.

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I do not believe him
when he says he sees
the sea turtle. But there
it is, like a giant round of driftwood,
disappearing into the turquoise
waves and unkempt white froth.
And there another.
It is so hard to know
what to do when
we doubt
is proved to be true.
Now what to do
the next time I know
he is lying or exaggerating.
Already, he is swearing
he sees the gray whales
off the dark cliffs and already
I feel that flock of doubts
rise up and swarm my thoughts.
So human, I tell myself,
to question him, so human
to want to believe.
I don’t know, I tell him,
that seems unlikely.
My eyes scan the tousled sea.

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in today’s mail
the cornbread recipe
her slanted cursive
the last meal
we ever shared


all evening
rain and for hours
double rainbow
too sweet for poems
but oh, so sweet


it burns
the noose
of an old


in aisle seven
the sulky girl hugs a bag
of jumbo marshmallows
you must have said no,
the stranger says to me


even the splash
of dishwater heart-shaped
on the counter
any excuse
to think of love


at the woman
in the green pick up
I toss a poem
to her rearview mirror

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