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To Tell the Truth

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From commons.wikimedia.org: To Tell the Truth daytime 1962 {MID-72587}
To Tell the Truth daytime 1962
(Image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org))
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My name is Robert McGee,
I lied through my teeth
Just as I was told. Good boy,
Sixteen-year-old actor,
Taste the profit in deceit,
Convince the bogus panel
You are who you seem to be,
A Senatorial Page, son of a
Wyoming Senator, nobly honest
Of course, not the boy from the
Bronx, decked in his white
School sweater, choking on lies.
For each fool who believes you,
You will receive one hundred
And twenty-five dollars. Not
Bad for such a dumb show
Of saying yes and smiling
When you mean no. TV shows
What art can't conceal. Lying,
I did very well indeed.

To Tell the Truth. Do You
Trust Your Wife? Who Do You
Trust? TV names for showing.
Even the poor language can't
Conceal the truth in such titles
During the Cold War years.
We were a family heading up
In the world, or so we hoped,
A family set apart in appearances
Of beauty, such red hair, so many
Of them, seven girls and a mother
Special, royal, stars becoming.
And how does it feel to be the only
Boy with seven sisters? This was
What everyone always asked him.
A family in the Bronx but not of
It, in the world but out of it
And what better way than TV
Game shows geared to the mentality
Of sham actors to show our stuff.
Look how I can lie on live
Television, I was saying to millions
Of people like you. Excuse me but you
Know from your own lying lives
That though I wanted to blurt
Out the truth, that I was an impostor,
I didn't blurt out anything.
Looked, instead, sincerely perplexed
By a question that stumped me
And I reluctantly told the painful truth
That I didn't know the answer.
How it hurt to be caught like that.

Now, looking back on those lies
Told for the sake of entertainment
And a few bucks more than thirty
Pieces of silver, I feel betrayed
By the smiling good boy I was.
Unlike Pinocchio my nose never
Branched out, nothing gave me
Away to anyone but myself.
But something grew, between me and you
I'm loath to describe this sense
Of being an impostor in my own
Life. One day I found myself
In a story told by someone else,
Someone I didn't know, someone
Who didn't know me but whose tale
Perplexed me by its semblance to mine.
Do you know why we tell stories
That when we hear them trap us
In lives we never knew were ours?
The answer is as simple as telling
The truth sounds stupid: we don't
Want to be caught in the act, not
Of appearing but simply being
Who we could be if only we were
Not afraid of telling the truth
Before an audience of one.

 

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Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely. He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/


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