Cate Marvin


Lying My Head Off



Here's my head, in a dank corner of the yard.

I lied it off and so off it rolled.

It wasn't unbelieving that caused it

to drop off my neck and loll down a slope.

Perhaps it had a mind of its own, wanted

to leave me for a little while.


Or it was scared and detached itself

from the stalk of my neck as a lizard's tail

will desert its body in fright of being caught.

The fact is, I never lied. The fact is,

I always lied. Before us, we have two mirrors.

At times, they say, one must lie in order


to survive. I drove by the house, passed

it several times, pretending it was not

my own. Its windows were red with curtains

and the honeyed light cast on the porch

did not succeed in luring me back inside.

I never lied. I drove by the house,


suckling the thought of other lovers

like a lozenge. I was pale as a papery birch.

I was pure as a brand new pair of underwear.

It will be a long while before I touch another.

Yet, I always lied, an oil slick on my tongue.

I used to think that I was wrong, could


not tell the truth for what it was. Yet, one

cannot take a lawsuit out on oneself.

I would have sworn in court that I believed

myself and then felt guilty a long time after.

I hated the house and I hated myself.

The house fattened with books, made me


grow to hate books, when all the while

it was only books that never claimed

to tell the truth. I hated him and I hated

his room, within which his cloud of smoke

heaved. I disappeared up narrow stairs,

slipped quick beneath the covers.


My stomach hurts, I told him, I was tired.

I grew my dreams thick through hot nights:

dear, flickering flowers. They had eyes

which stared, and I found I could not afford

their nurture, could not return their stare.

Meanwhile, liars began their parade


without my asking, strode sidewalks inches

before my doorstep. I watched their hulking

and strange beauty, their songs pregnant

with freedom, and became an other self.

I taught children how to curse.

I bought children gold pints of liquor.


I sold my mind on the street.

I learned another language. It translates easily.

Here's how: What I say is not what I mean,

nor is it ever what I meant to say.

You must not believe me when I say

there's nothing left to love in this world.