Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview

Ordinary Psalm Troubled by Truth and Lies

I wanted this to be the poem where nothing was true—
where, say, we made love under stars falling into the blue Pacific,

our friendship that much better because nothing was held back,
though damn it, truth is we never slept together. And of course

you’d know it was a whopper, if I said we were just friends
because I’d wanted nothing to do with pleasure,

but had spent my life begging to be of use, seated at a small desk,
writing letters to the families of dead soldiers,

like the poet Paul Eluard did, before writing, There is another world
and it is in this one, then dying himself. Last time I saw you alive

was on a beach in August, the sea setting off wave sets in blasts
of shine. We built a driftwood shelter and sat inside its dark, listening.

Now, every time the woodsmoke rises above my roof, I remember
the night you killed yourself, and how the shock literally felled me,

so that I had to be lifted up barefoot from the hospital floor by orderlies.
Listen, I can’t help it. I believe there are angels lost in our bodies,

and by angels I mean the tenderness we carry for others
as what carries us. Tell me, what is truth

but a way of suffering through the lies?
Like that nurse knocking on the door of the grieving room

to give me back my shoes, and how it helped then, as now
to think, Okay, I’m still here, deep in one life that is really another.  

return to top