by Paul Hooker
What Is Truth?
Nikolai Ge, 1890
“Three or four generations of tact simply make one a full-blown liar.”
– Theodore J. Wardlaw
Strong walls make for safe rooms, sanctuary
from the shifting winds that change one’s plans.
Doors are entries or escapes, depending on
who’s in the room. Light sets boundaries,
sharp-edged limits on the creeping shadow.
Dark is the realm of dust and roaches.
We cultured cynics look best in sunlight where
the justice of our cause is clear to all.
But Truth–was he that beggar in the darkness,
rumpled failure cloaked in rags and ashes,
a pair of hooded torches instead of eyes?
Would you have me walk his mendicant way,
hands cupped for the morsel he breaks and proffers,
lips pursed to sip the wine he would dispense?
I think not. Does not Truth shine with bright assurance
when bloody hands and conscience are washed clean?
But tell me, if you can, why the sun seems shrouded
and why the earth now trembles beneath my feet.
You know the answer to the rhetorical question, Paul
Yes, but do you?
i think the brilliance here lodges in the last line, as it does in so many of your poems. it’s the surprise at the end, the twist of word, thought, fate that draw the reader up short, and sends her dashing to the first line again, to make sure she read it right. the light from the “rumpled failure” hurts my eyes.