Friday, November 27, 2009

Truth or Lies? You Be the Judge

The brilliant Dana Guthrie-Martin recently post this exercise on Read Write Poem:

  • To write an essay that is incredibly convincing even if it’s a lie
  • To find, through the essay, the undercurrent of truth that resides inside our lies
  • To excavate our strangest truths and document them so successfully they seem like they simply must be lies
I was really surprised at what emerged when I sat down to write; it was fascinating to observe how language both disguised the truth and yet amplified it in ways that brought intense clarity to my memories. I recently had a conversation with Dana about language, language poetry, all the ways in which language is inadequate, yet can be circumvented to tell larger truths. I've been thinking a lot about it since. The conversation was sparked from my frustration with trying to plow through a book of poems by John Ashbery, and I admit I still have some resistance to them, as much as I believe in the plasticity of language. I am going to blog further about that later, but for now here are my two essays:

Essay 1: Snail Confidential

When I was child, I knew how to speak in tongues, but no one noticed. I was terrified of losing control of my gift and exploding during Mass, my jaw opening against my will; spewing forth a frantic, fiery rush of God. How horribly embarrassing; how furious my mom would be. On Sundays, I made up stomach aches, and huddled alone on the porch, speaking in tongues to a small glass snail that was filled with my grandmother’s perfume. He understood everything; in fact, he knew so much about me that eventually, he had to be destroyed. I was heartbroken as I stomped on him with my dirty Keds. I buried the musty-sweet glass underneath the porch, and the next day, when I went to check on his remains, a bright pink lady slipper grew from his grave.

Essay 2: Dangerous

When I was a child, my mother collapsed on Christmas Eve and refused to get out of bed. Her eyes were red and wet and she rolled her back to me when I asked her what was wrong. There was a bad storm. Power lines were down. My dad put on his earflap hat and we went out for a walk in the lightening. Electric wires lay everywhere in the slushy snow, and blue light snaked through the gaps where they’d broken. Every few yards, my father lifted me over the jumping tongues of sparks: “Here Kristy, up and over, here Kristy, up and over.” We walked for a long time, in the damp, bruised twilight. When we came home, I wrapped up my brother’s red dump truck and offered it to my mother as a gift.

Which one is true, and which one is false?


Finger Poised over the Dial Button said...

Dangerous is false. It must be.

For if it's not, I shall be left with no choice but to report your father to the Dept. of Child Welfare!

Dick said...

Both of them are.

40licious said...

I think Dangerous is true ... but I work for the power company.