He Who Damns A Lie Will Have To Answer To Me

A Prose Poem by Phil Rockstroh


Lies take on a life of their own. They take wing... can soar, dive and
hover, can mate in air like dragon flies, and, like those flying-fuck
insects, they will devour their mate. Then: Eggs are laid, gestates
occurs, and a new generation of lies swarms forth into the delusional air.
This is all well and good, but, after a while, an earnest liar expects
more of himself and of his lies.

I know this, because I am a lie. Saying this is the closest I can come to
not telling one. I have experimented with the truth from time to time: It
did not take: I did not get hired, laid, nor was I even remotely liked,
much less even mildly tolerated by others for the effort. The phone
stopped ringing, folks quit dropping by, I got lousy service in
restaurants, grocery store cashiers bruised my produce, my landlord
refused to renew my lease, and my family cut me from the will. I've
learned my lesson: I'll never pull that stunt again. I do, after all, have
some sense of shame.

I have learned truth can be an ugly thing: Repulsive as a hunchback bell
ringer; unsightly as hairs that sprout from inappropriate areas of the
anatomy; repellent as the stench of a dead rat decomposing between the
walls.... This stench can lead to where the bodies are buried -- but the
exhumation is anything but pleasant. Do we have any volunteers to dig up
those truths we buried years ago? No, then let's not disturb their rest;
there is little chance they will rise like flesh-eating, b-movie ghouls.
This is the real world -- and it will remain that way as long it is largely
populated by lies.

Here: We arrive at the ill-defined borderline where the wilderness of our
lies merge with suburbs of our self-deception and then proceed upward to
the shining city on the hill of out-and-out delusion.

Hence, the conspiracy theory of my unknowable motives: Hidden within my
mind are secret chambers that hide the bodies of dead aliens; my mind
contains hidden sniper nests where assassins perch; it is a city of
intrigue where cabalists plot and sharpen their swords; here, in my head,
resides an unfathomable alliance of propagandists and dupes, schemers and
patsies who covertly thrive and languish. I point to a grassy knoll when
you ask me what happened to my life. Lee Harvey Oswald took a bullet to
the gut fired by my hair-trigger denial. The Warren Commission of my
sanctioned self-awareness tries to explain that there is less to my life
than meets the eye.

Only the most unhinged outsiders, sleepless cranks, hard-drinking
expatriates, and all the rest of their
ill-suited-to-the-everyday-useful-delusions-of-coping ilk know the truth
about me. They scrawl fervid letters to the editors of the respectable
news sources of my waking life. The letters are given a dismissive glance
by harried interns then are cast into the trash. But still these missives
miss the point, regardless of the sincere insanity of their intentions.

The truth may be unapproachable: not in the sense of a cordon sanitaire
that exists around those who have immense power and carry its attendant
secrets; rather, they consist of the variety of lie that allows us to live
(provisionally) in our own skins. Now, I would never make the claim that
these are comfortable accommodations: They are cramped, stuffy,
windowless, poorly lit rooms where I pace in perpetual agitation until I
collapse on my battered mattress and curl into a sodden heap. There: I
jerk off like a caged monkey; I chew my fur like a neurotic dog; I am as
banal as Eichmann calculating the weight capacities of boxcars.

Still, I know that something essential has fled -- has been lost like a
seductive dream to an insistent alarm clock, has been diminished like an
exquisite song that has been appropriated for a commercial jingle. A
hopeful school girl has become an embittered crone. The soil of
possibility has been sown with salt.

All around me, the world is clamorous with the prattling of pushy
ignoramuses like myself: Each chanting, "I, me, mine." Everywhere, black
magicians of consumerism cast their incantations, dangling shiny objects in
front of us overgrown infants and mall-meandering imbeciles who have yet
to develop the ability to differentiate the distinction between "I want"
and "I need." All I care to know about that subject is: If I do learn it,
what's in it for me?

Now, wars are fought for our instant gratification. It's all about my
comfort level. Bombs are dropped like anti-depressants: I feel much better
now, thank you: The bombs may have even possibly landed upon those distant
strangers who were causing me such internal distress. But if they happen
to blast to shreds the wrong people, oh well, we can always try again: We
have many more bombs.

In this way, I'm hoping to transform the crumbling flophouse that I have
erected from the flimsy material of my own shabby lies into an
impenetrable fortress of collective delusion. But I cannot do it alone;
alone my lies are nothing, a whimpered prayer mouthed into a roaring
windstorm -- but, I'm certain, that together, we can construct a new
dwelling place, a walled city which will exist beyond all harm. And we
must build it, brick by brick, lie by lie: this is the stuff that empires
are made of.

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Poetry on Swans

Iraq on Swans


Phil Rockstroh, a self-confessed gasbag monologist, is a poet and a musician who lives in New York City (Manhattan). Rockstroh is co-author, with Chris Chandler, of Protection From All This Safety, (Portals Press, 1997, ISBN: 0916620301). He's had short fiction published in Silver Web Literary Magazine, Thin Ice, Brutarian, and poems included in a few anthologies, such as "From a Bend in the River." Owed royalites gallore by various publishers, Phil Rockstroh sent his first contribution to Swans with the queasy relief that he would not be financially compensated for it.

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Published May 12, 2003
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