Saturday, September 26, 2020

Poem: Lying is Done with Words

The editors of NOW, Breena Clarke, Cheryl Clarke and Esther Cohen, have launched this new online journal which is published by the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is one of the poets in the inaugural issue which went live to coincide with the virtual version of their annual Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

Adrienne Rich reading at a Dodge Poetry Festival

Maria's poem takes its title from a line from Adrienne Rich's book, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978  

Lying is Done with Words

Lying is done with words but also with Silence
—Adrienne Rich

Adrienne, how many times did I hide behind silence 
when I couldn’t stand to know the truth,
times when I practiced selective memory,
(that’s what my daughter calls it)
because she says I tend to remember
in watercolor, editing out all the bad parts.

Adrienne, I heard you read at a Dodge Festival years ago.
You were having trouble walking,
one leg dragging.
By then your poems sounded like they could be philosophy papers.

I remember earlier times, earlier poems. 
I remember you in 1972.
My children are five and seven and asleep in their beds.
I have risen from sleep, leaving my husband behind
and climb down the stairs to the kitchen 
where Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton  and May Sarton 
keep me company.

“Breathing,” is a poem about your own kitchen 
in the middle of the night and how you look across 
and see your neighbor pacing up and down,
her body wrapped in a blanket.
You feel a strong connection between your neighbor and yourself,
yet you don’t know the woman. 
I feel as though you have joined me in my own kitchen, 
the clock ticking forward toward dawn.

Your voice and those of the other women poets,
make me feel that I am not alone,
that I can survive in silence 
the terror of the unknown and ordinary,
the sameness of each day
that feels like it can kill you.
As long as I have your words 
and my own poems written in so many notebooks, 
nothing can defeat me.

I do love my family 
but no one ever tells you how lonely you’ll feel,
the days dark as a week of rain, 
except for these moments, 
the poems to keep me company, 
the long nights,
so I won’t feel doomed
by all that I need to do,
the next day and the next.
And I will carve out of these stolen hours, 
while nobody needs me, 
the time to read and write the poems 
that save me.

The NOW  journal is available online at

For Festival information, see their Facebook page or

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent books are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter. Her collection of poems paired with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets. Her artist's website is and her poetry website is

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