La Bocca della Verita

by Lois P. Jones
PenShells
Second Place, October 2014
Judged by Philip Belcher


the heavens are a hoary chowder
a Pavonazzo marble
over the San Francisco bay
and there’s just one gash
of sun as if a god grew tired
of darkness

a wound where light
has ripped through the mouth
of truth

you know the legend –
the one which dares us
to place our hand inside
the gaping hole

to slip out of a body
and enter the hollow
is to watch the lie
fall away

the sky strips me
of desire
you are the bird
who comes so near
fly closer       I know
you fear being reduced
to poverty in human arms
I will be the woman who lets go
of her angel

we kill       we burn
we empty into the mouth
of the river

the god Oceanus is here
to wash our sorrows

into the Tiber
but we can’t remember why


This poem employs inventive and precise imagery to explore the nature of truth and relationships, of security and freedom. The first two stanzas are the most powerful: the four images—heavens as a “hoary chowder,” “one gash / of sun,” a god tiring of the dark, and “a wound where light / has ripped through the mouth / of truth”—do the work that no explication can do. The poem also treats the reader to a complete narrative arc when it returns in the closing lines to the image of the mouth. --Philip Belcher

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