Hemingway once wrote: "I want to write one true sentence." And "If I can write one sentence, simple and true, everyday, I'll be satisfied".
I read this recently in a new-ish book about Hemingway’s first wife. These words grabbed me, pierced me straight through to the core. I find myself thinking about them frequently. What is a true sentence anyway? Who is the arbiter of truth? I am often aware as I tell little white lies for social convenience or glaring lies of omission to avoid social conflicts, etc. How often do we tell the truth? And to whom? Maybe the reason we have to write the truth, in sentences, is that it is simply too hard to speak.
As an actor, I am a keen observer of human behavior and much of the human interaction around me. I watch the millions of strangers in New York City as they lie with their eyes or fidget their way out of answering a question truthfully. We speak in polite idioms and socialized systems with the excellent manners we were taught as children, but often, a whole other world of truth rages underneath. It intrigues me, our human struggles with this concept of truth. And how often do we lie to ourselves or convince ourselves of truths that are altogether un-true. I wonder… whose truth is the one that counts?
As a poet, I find that images speak more truthfully than words ever hoped to. I am keenly aware of the power of symbolism and the way it envelops me in multi-layered truths. The world is full of them – literal signs on the street, the nagging recurrence of certain song lyrics, or images in nature that make us stop and reflect, sensing a higher truth which always comes just when we need it most.
Once in my late twenties, I was grappling with the concept of man-made religion verses a more personal style or level of spirituality. I woke up from a nap in the middle of a Saturday afternoon to find my very Catholic crucifix split apart and just barely hanging from the wall; my rosary wrapped around it and dangling just inches above my face. I laughed aloud. This image was a perfect and very true picture of exactly what I was feeling on that particular day. The image stayed with me, as they often do, following me like a shadow, crowding the corners of my mind. Finally I took out a pen and sat down to write. I don’t know if there is “one true sentence here” (let the arbiters of truth decide, whomever they turn out to be), but never a truer or more literal image has come to me…
My crucifix is torn.
like an autumn leaf
yet to fall from my bedroom walls,
distorting the perfect oval
of the rosary that rings around it.
as the weight of those glass prayers
splits Christ from His cross
The nail pierced through His feet
the only thing
that binds Him
to that dogwood tree.
Tilted toward my eyes
poised to dive
and share this plane with me.
Sure to walk upon my welcome mat
and turn my water into wine
Naked with knowingness
embracing the Divine within my ribs
swelling with breath of tears.
Beauty ejecting shame
and all the metaphors of ritual
force-fed in high chairs
Powerfully pulling me beyond.
for the clogged plumbing in my soul.
Cleansing like a slimy mud bath
the Genesis of letting go.
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