The man
Would jackknife,
Leave his lovely wife,
And abandon his preschool kids?
He told me once, "I hate my life." So who knew? I did.

(I am vaguely Catholic, so I am prone to believe that any confession, however casual, is a Holy Confession. Isn't every secret a sacred possession? Shouldn't I honor any intimacy with my silence? Or am I just defending my friend? But, damn, what kind of man leaves his family without kissing them good-bye? And what's more, he left them not for another woman or man, but for a studio apartment with a big-screen TV. Should I feel guilty for remaining friends with this bastard? Do I become a liar whenever I conceal the lies of another man, no matter how much I love him like a brother?)


At noon,"
X said. She
Waited for fifty-
Six minutes then sent X this text:
"I love your forgetful ass, but we'll never have sex."

(There was a time, twenty-one years ago, when X romantically loved her—when he drunkenly waded through a shallow pond in his haste to get to her. He could have walked around the water, but that would have involved a deviation from a direct line. He pursued her like this despite the fact that she was—and is—a lesbian. Romance has always been an impossibility. And yet, these days, whenever she flirts, he remembers exactly what it felt like to want her so much—to dream of kissing her beneath a streetlight while unkissed strangers wander past them.)


But served
Thirteen years
For rape and car theft
Before a new DNA test
Exonerated him. He says, "Freedom hurts my chest."

(The prosecuting attorney still believes the right man was convicted. "I have no doubts, none at all," the attorney said to a documentary crew. "And I will go to my grave knowing that a guilty man has been set free." The case depended on eyewitness testimony. The rape victim, an eight-year-old girl, first told police that she was attacked by a man who looked like her neighbor. After hours of questioning and coaching, she changed her statement and swore that it was "actually" her neighbor who raped her. Another witness, a different neighbor, swore that he saw the accused man steal a car. The witness was allowed to make this claim despite the fact that he was extremely nearsighted, it was nighttime, and the suspect was sixty feet away. The nearsighted man swore that he recognized his neighbor's "eccentric gait." The jury took only three hours to deliver a guilty verdict, and the judge sentenced the accused to seventy years. But all of them were wrong. They convicted an innocent man. Does that make them liars? Must one purposefully lie in order to be called a liar? Or can a mistake—an accidental misidentification—also be a form of lying? And whom do we become when we are confronted with the truth—with a direct refutation of our closely held beliefs—but still refuse to admit to our wrongs? During a press conference the day after his release from prison, the innocent man swore that he held no grudge. He said he just wanted to get down and kiss the ground, though the ground remained unkissed. He said he forgave everybody and that he wished all of them his best. But he kept repeating—said it three or four times—that freedom was hurting—was killing—his chest.)


When she
Passed by my
Desk. I wanted her;
She wanted me. We never kissed.
Twenty years later, I still dream about what I missed.

(She loves her husband and sons; I love my wife and daughters. Neither of us wants to change our lives. I don't want to kiss her now, except, I suppose, in my fantasies. But I am still curious about all the reasons why we never acted on our passions. Why didn't we ever take that first step toward removing our clothes? Were we afraid? Were we in denial? Perhaps we just didn't want it enough. Or is there a larger question? Do all of us become liars when we don't kiss those people who make us tremble and who tremble for us?)


My dad
Shouted to the sky
Then madly climbed into his ride
And promised us that he'd only drink a few. He lied.

(My father only talked about broken treaties when he was drinking. He died six years ago of alcohol-related kidney failure. But I was not at his bedside. I'd never promised him that I would help him die, so, technically speaking, I didn't lie, but whenever I talk to my mother about my father's death, I have to avert my eyes. I also had to avert my eyes when I first saw my father—no, my father's body—lying in the coffin. My sisters—twins—leaned over to kiss my father, but I could only imagine the coldness, the taste of absence, so I did not kiss him. I only held his hand, and only for a moment, before I fled back to my chair in the front row, where I grieved alone and yet so publicly.) recommended