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 collections of poetry include The Parakeets of Brooklyn, Vanishing Horizon, and Little Heretic. His collection of essays on poets and prosody, Palpable Magic, came out from Stephen F. Austin University Press and his textbook, Composing Poetry: A Guide to Writing Poems and Thinking Lyrically was recently released from Kendall Hunt. A new book of poems, The Story of Ash, is forthcoming this year. He teaches at Frostburg State University and as a Poetry Mentor in the MFA Program at Carlow University.