That isn’t to say I don’t lie. I’m just not very good at it.
When I was a kid, my mother’s personal spaces were strictly off limits: her purse, her dresser drawers, her writing desk. Of course, nothing could be more intriguing to an 8-year-old daughter than any of these. So one day, I sneaked for a snoop into that Top Secret Dresser Drawer. At once I came across a small gold container. As I pried at the lid with my little fingers, suddenly it popped off–and SQUISH went my thumb into the creamy red rouge inside. Talk about red-handed. I hastily replaced the lid, put the rouge back in the drawer as I hoped I had found it, scrubbed my thumb, and kept my mouth shut.
Tense days passed before my mother confronted her daughters, all three of us, and asked, “Who has been in my dresser drawer?” At that moment, I learned that I would never grow up to be a politician or a poker player. The culprit didn’t have to say a word. “Written all over my face.” That’s how it went down.
In a favorite movie, The American President, the character played by Annette Bening tells her boyfriend, the President, played by Michael Douglas, that she knows when he’s not telling the truth. “It’s that thing you do with your face,” she says. I know. I know.
I’m not good at lying–in person, especially, but even on paper. Perhaps that’s why I write poems. Poems, I think, are all about diving for the truth. Some might say my range is rather limited. So here’s my excuse…
WHY I AM NOT A POET
a poem for Annie Finch in amphibrachs* mostly
I’ve never had children, a miscarriage, or an abortion;
was never rejected or beaten or sexually forced by
my father; have not yet experienced the death of my mother,
the loss of a sibling by suicide; never divorced.
I always succeeded in school, only bullied a little;
at one time relinquished religion, but then I came back.
I married a man who can cook; never took to the bottle;
discovered there’s pretty good money in being a hack.
My politics waffle, although I’m concerned for the Third World.
I often recycle. I’ve worked through my feminist rage.
Just fooling with words is a lousy raison for a poet
so just turn the page.
*amphibrach is a term for a “foot” of poetic meter that goes duh-DAH-duh. In this case, what you’re getting is approximately amphibracic pentameter–five feet of amphibrachs in each line. Annie Finch is a poet, scholar, and teacher whose workshop I enjoyed once upon a time at the West Chester Poetry Conference.