It’s a kindness, sometimes,

how you’d like to say one thing

but choose another, that “luscious roast,”

for instance, you could wear home as a shoe,

the “lovely dress” that reminds you

of a tent flap in a storm.


Yes, you say, it’s a dazzling page-turner,

thinking where did the language go to die?


Such are the diplomatic swerves

one takes for friends and family, not to mention

one’s beloved, and how lovely to offer them

a dollop of cream instead of the gall.


Of course, some lies are better left unsaid,

their footings crumbling to powder

even before the house is built


but some are so artfully conceived

you almost wish you were the object

of their attentions, many thanks

for your intricate efforts!


The world is your oyster your fortune says

with a sleight and a wink

and even you seem willing to be huckstered in,

looking for the sweetness in the salt,

and maybe the hidden pearl.


And isn’t it too easy to admire the truth

stretching always like a clear expanse

without obstruction or change?


Nothing in its field to cast a shadow

or bend the light in a hundred ways.


Nothing of the lie circling toward you now

with a straight face and the faintest smile

as if to say here is the world, truth be told,

and here it is again, all tangle and curve.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 34 Number 5, on page 44
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