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"Truth," Says the Truism


"Truth"—says the truism—"has a scratched face."
Tell me
the story of that scratch.

*

"If it thows it," said the mechanic in Macon,
"if it thows a rod, you gon know it."

I knew it
not. Every mile in that red Fairlane
with each pothole or engine-clunk
I worried it had already thrown it
and I was too oblivious to tell.

*

"Like a compound bone fracture
breaking through the skin," says Car Talk:
when the crankshaft's connecting rod
busts loose and splits through the engine block. It
throws a rod. Truth
has a clawed face. Truth
spine-bristles, spits back.

*

Sud-scraping the soap dish:
old soap needs new
to scrub off the soap scum
from latherslab that floated
in handwashing water, dried, then fouled
along the dish ridges: fat-gunk and fetor.

It takes soap to wash off soap, as
only words can say
what other words
might mean.
Antonymous
its synonyms
inimical, oppugnant, dead against,
and the like.

*

If it thows it and you don't even know it:
Fairlane cruising while the rod
secretly and inwardly
blasts loose.
Truth's face so gashed you don't recognize it.

What does this proverb mean to you:
"One cannot be
and have been?"
What lather can cleanse the soap scum
of a question I heard in a philosophy lecture
forty years ago:
"What's the difference between no longer being
and never having been?"

It thows it, sometimes, and you know it.

"Big flies," the adage goes, "break the spider web." Silk-
wrapped in it; thorax torn and tearing: dead
against it.

*

"Sir, I'll tell you your problem, sir. Sir, you ain't got no engine, sir"'
The ex-Marine mechanic scowled down the open hood,
cicada-buzzthrob through dry miles of kudzu and gnat-swarm
in eye-wet.
"Well, what's that?" I asked, pointing at the engine.
"Sir, believe me, you ain't got no engine. Sir."

I ain't got no engine. It thowed it. I should have known it.
Gas-blast in cylinder
blows piston to connecting
rod to crankshaft to
wheel-screech and dust cloud in rearview,

but now: dead-clunk of rod half smashed through block.
I ain't got no. I ain't got no. I ain't got no.

*

"The truth lies,"

They say, "at the bottom of a well."
"It's unnecessary,"
They say too, "to fish up every bucket
that falls into the well."

It takes
words to scratch through to the truth
of words: verity, conformity, reality, the like.
Meaning's
the handle that metal-scrapes
and clangs against

language, its bobbing and disattached bucket,
when I go for a draft:
slime-green, algal, cold.

Scratch means "nothing." Arbitrary
no time
to set off from,
to floor it toward
never having been,
rod holding steady to its piston. Like any word, truth
slinks away when you say it:
spit-slicked, stripe-scratched, gut-
growling, and declawed.

*

Truth has a scratched face means:
A. the truism ≠ the truth;
B. every washing leaves on soap bar
its invisible slick of washer's
dead skin cells and sebaceous oils;
C. it thew it, and someone
lashed out, wanting
not to know;
D. it takes some
claws to get below the surface
where Truth lives;
E. wear not, in the house of the hanged man,
even a necktie, even a strand of pearls.


Bruce Beasley

The Southern Review

Spring 2017


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