When Lying Was In Vogue

Even laughter was a lie. Even sadness.
The way highways stretched beyond the next curve
with their markers every tenth of a mile &

their exit signs promising fuel & coffee,

the possibility of a bed with its vague suggestion
of desire. Nothing so tawdry. It was winter.
Snow didn’t fall, so the road felt easy

but even our good fortune was a falsehood

had I been listening. By then
the politicians had embroidered their speeches
with so many fibs rehearsed so often

it wasn’t difficult to believe &

America with its beaches & skyscrapers,
its trailer parks, its promise of equality,
its promise in the pursuit of happiness—

who didn’t want to have faith? I carried mine

in my wallet like an ID card. Isn’t that why
we traveled state by state & spoke of love &
ignored willfully every truth. We were, after all,

writers of fiction. Elsewhere people lied

in Portuguese, in Mandarin, in Pig Latin,
even in baby talk at the edge of strollers.
I knew my parents had lied often & for decades—

the fiction of that childhood with its televised

myths of the future all jet packs & the nuclear
family, might well have been an advertisement,
billboards lit up, suggesting some delicacy

for dinner everyone would enjoy.

We’d been duped before… In the Decoy Museum
placards told the storied history of wooden ducks,
of mallards, drakes, & teals, & how now

they’re made by 3-D printers, the replicants

so precise you can see the veins on each feather.
Later, in the car, you laughed often,
the Cure on the radio—all lies

the way love songs always lie & are necessary.

This poem, too, which I conceived then. Remember,
there was an exhibit of sunken duck blinds,
how they’d been outlawed for the hunters would lay

submerged, shotguns ready, decoys buoyed above.

Oh, how beautiful I believed you were.
Every fifteen minutes church bells lied
about the time, about salvation.

 

Gerry LaFemina’s latest books are the poetry collection The Story of Ash (Anhinga, 2018) and a  new chapbook, Points South (Hysterical Books, 2019). A new volume of prose poems, Baby Steps for Doomsday Prepping (Madville, 2020), is forthcoming. His previous books include a novel, a collection of short stories, and numerous award-winning collections of poetry, including The Parakeets of Brooklyn, Notes for the Novice Ventriloquist (prose poems), Vanishing Horizon, and Little Heretic. His essays on poets and prosody, Palpable Magic, came out on Stephen F Austin University Press and his textbook, Composing Poetry: A Guide to Writing Poems and Thinking Lyrically was released by Kendall Hunt. The former director of the Frostburg Center for Literary Arts and a current Fulbright Specialist, he teaches at Frostburg State University and serves as a Mentor in the MFA Program at Carlow University.

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