Semi-True Stories (Revised and Unabridged)

Last fall I wrote a poem called Semi-True Stories. It never caught on, statistics-wise, in comparison to some of my more popular work, but it was an unspoken favourite of mine. In the months to come, I would write five more installments to create my second-longest poem ever. While each poem built upon a general sense of lore, paying tribute to everything from Lord of the Rings to Miller’s The Crucible, the second half of the series actually began to craft a separate story of its own. In essence, I was creating two distinct poems set within one universe, and I originally thought the two arcs irreconcilable.

It took a bit of work to make the entire thing cohesive, but I think it works in this new unabridged version, or I would not have kept with it. Only rivaled in length by my earlier series Opus Anglicanum (2010), at almost 900 words, it is a true tribute to my origins as a lover of fantasy and all things geekdom, examining both the human condition and the politics of fear. I believe it can exist both as the original set of poems and the completed version, but I hope the extra work put into it will make it a bit easier to follow and enjoy.    

***

My life is based on
a semi-true story,
three paragraphs, never
long enough to
be boring.

No particular setting,
place or time.

It has its fair
share of villainy,
auxiliary heroes,
conciliatory
rogues.

Colour palettes
auburn as autumn,
home to kingdoms
I can single out for
their stonework
alone.

Political under
tones bordering on
the mass graves of
broken men

beyond
the walls that
harbour

a city-state of
xenophobes.

“Maybe he’s in
collusion with
these revolutionaries,
as they call
themselves.

All they are,
really, are
lepers.”)

And lately when it
rains it
pours,

and this city is
a sponge,
inviting six feet of
mud and water

into allegories that
substitute oceans
with blood.

Every metaphor’s a
monster, all
outcomes
retaliatory.

Youthful lust’s lost
to labyrinths, our greatest
fears held
their
eternal captives-

the magic of wonder is
squandered in
a laboratory we built
to breed
it in
test tubes.

Only those
magnificent
children grew into
outcasts and
transients, lone
amethysts in
a land
hand-painted gold.

And, as the
stories have
always been told,
there’s an experiment gone
wrong in all of us,

we all have our
monster
with
a soul.

So go fetch your
crosses,

and
sharpen your knives,

Bring all
your Bibles, let
your priests
perform
final rites.

But beware the wasps lest
you step on a
hive,
and hope
the next time
you can
still put your
Frankenstein down.

(Now we
watch the
stage
lights fade,
curtain calls brave
one last
sorrowful serenade,

its weight
made to move us
but our tears
have
long strayed.

You and I,
we paraphrased our
narratives with all
the arrogance of
the American Dream.

Yet no one
explained those semi-true
stories
were once
a roadmap
recording
every step of
our fictitious glory.)

Suits in
the crowd cue
unnecessary sequels.

More tired
Hollywood fanfare, a square
dance in
superfluous circles.

Imagine a world
all monsters have
been quarantined or killed,

demons laid
to rest against
their will.

Windows into our
dysfunction are
closed off at
every junction.

Old kingdoms await
judgement
for the nature of
their prayers.

And the elders speak of a door, while holding the key, that guards all of life’s nightmares. Don’t open it, they beg, don’t sentence us to speak of the horrors so many died to
banish.

Already at the
mercy of famine, sandwiched between
insurgencies, election booth greed
trying to
sell our
despair to
the highest bidder;

in a cave northwest of their
bitter tongues, a girl much
younger slips a golden
key
into Pandora’s Box
and twists.

(And so we’ll go
to war again with
phobias that have
consoled us
so long.)

When the child removed the key from the twisted hold it would forever have on her soul, it unleashed a cataclysm of undead we kept locked inside our heads. Their rotting feet and peeling flesh invited themselves in, red irises sneering on our doorstep. When she breathed the black smoke clawing its way from behind the keyhole, it foretold she would be the only one with the power to pull

such evil back from its whetted tongue.

As the walls that protected
us plunge a
thousand feet,
she returns to
the cobblestone streets of
her youth,

a warrior
in waiting.

“Assemble your
fairy tales, men!
for their
kingdoms have come,
the endgame is
present and it’s
out for blood!”

Monsters without a name have turned the sky above to ash, as stone towers crash into winding streets. Monarchs and gods who spent their lives robbing our pockets and our faith are caught within castles and churches. The countryside lurches. We bleed through cloth tourniquets

and dragons above
turn late autumn weather
into a furnace,
deep breaths
hell-bent on
burning us
alive.

The girl looks for
a sign she’s no predestined
bride to survival, but all the
arrows pointing her
home have been
ripped from
the ground as reprisal.

Stealing a carriage, she comes across dead parents sheltering their offspring from the fire raining down, the town she grew up in reduced to smoldering embers.

(A winged beast shot down,
its corpse lands in
a mound of hay, burning most of the
straw away.)

Rushing past giant trolls, whose feet burn with warts that prevent them chasing the horses, the girl makes a return to the cave to undo her gravest mistake. The key’s still where she forced it right, and with all of

her scrawny might,
commits herself
to sacrifice, disintegrating
with the light that’s made
worse men
legends,

that her
descendants
will use as the
basis for their

semi-true
stories.

Come tomorrow morning
(when our kings are found
perished and the gods that
crowned them
look on, embarrassed)

we’ll only mourn her bravery.

An errand girl
who risked the world to
unite us against
spineless
differences.

My life is based on
a series of events
I had hoped
to prevent
but during its
descent into

chaos,
I kissed the
cross around
my neck
and called down

the prose of
legends to serve
their sentence among

mortal men.

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3 thoughts on “Semi-True Stories (Revised and Unabridged)

  1. good stuff! my only comment would be to break the poem up into sections and to work on the line breaks. this reads like a story, so you should give us more than three words to a line. the stanzas that read more like prose, ironically, are definitely the best. think leaves of grass as inspiration.

    Like

  2. I’ll confess I’m not finished, as I am on my way to work, but really am enjoying it and will finish it. Which is saying a lot, since my attention span most days is ten seconds

    Like

  3. I tried to tell where the installments were put together and could not. I think the first half is my favourite and its all because of the imagery 🙂 I’m a sucker for pretty things

    Lily

    Like

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