lying to the young is wrong

rodolpho amoedo 1887 the narrative of philetas

I taught them…each…to nose wriggle
like a rabbit…to imagine a bee sitting
at their nose tip about to sting…perhaps
unless they quickly wiggled it away…and
that there are no guarantees in real life
that they would not be hurt…I told them

I taught them…each… to close observe
the curve of listeners’ lips for secret
disbelief…disdain…the doubting shown
when lips are closed and corners flicked
down even for an instant…I told them

and then I wrote gesnorenplartz upon a screen
and told them that it meant smashed peas
and then I watched…and so did they…each other
and then they mostly knowing smiled

and then we began our reading of his tragedy…
how…what happened when…Montague and Capulet
and Friar and Nurse and Escalus of Verona lied
oh, when they lied…to their young


Bonnie Marshall

Artwork by Rodolpho Amoedo, 1887

23 thoughts on “lying to the young is wrong

  1. That is cleverly told, Bonnie, and beautifully set up and executed. I loved it. And here’s a confession: being even more naive than the two young people in your poem, I went scampering away to Google Translate! Then I came back and paid attention.
    Finally, I am full of admiration for that closing stanza.

  2. Bonnie, I have missed seeing new poems from you, and this one is an example why. In my first reading at the end of each stanza I told myself, “This has to be the best stanza,” and each time I was wrong. The repetition of “lied”in the last two lines was risky for a poet but works so well, stirring up the drama.

    1. I early found Yevgeni Yevtushenko’s poetry..mainly “Babi Yar” but also “Lies” and took to heart the truth that if we lie to the young they will grow to hate us for it. His “Lies” became a touchstone for my teaching. Also, years earlier, my best teacher disciplined us with truthfulness… along with Latin…9th Grade. I wrote a poem about her “Tyrannosaurus Regina” Thank you, John, for reminding me. Smiles…

  3. I love this. Are you sure this is not about teaching? It is what seemed to be happening to me. You imbue these harsh lessons with such a playful, knowing hand. I am sure you did it well.

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