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Poetic Lies

Poetry About Lies and Liars


Julia Vinograd


No blame.  Anyone who wrote Howl and Kaddish
earned the right to make any possible mistake
for the rest of his life.
I just wish I hadn't made this mistake with him.
It was during the Vietnam war
and he was giving a great protest reading
in Washington Square Park
and nobody wanted to leave.
So Ginsberg got the idea, "I'm going to shout
'the war is over' as loud as I can, "he said
"and all of you run over the city
in different directions
yelling the war is over, shout it in offices,
shops, everywhere and when enough people
believe the war is over
why, not even the politicians
will be able to keep it going."
I thought it was a great idea at the time,
a truly poetic idea.
So when Ginsberg yelled I ran down the street
and leaned in the doorway
of the sort of respectable down on its luck cafeteria
where librarians and minor clerks have lunch
and I yelled "the war is over."
And a little old lady looked up
from her cottage cheese and fruit salad.
She was so ordinary she would have been invisible
except for the terrible light
filling her face as she whispered
"My son.  My son is coming home."
I got myself out of there and was sick in some bushes.
That was the first time I believed there was a war.



Because we lied to them.
We told them an entire country turned into werewolves
or at the very least, went insane.
They don't believe us and they're right.
It was much worse.
One can plead innocent by reason of insanity,
the Germans weren't innocent
and they weren't insane.
They also weren't werewolves.
I even found a used copy of a novel by Goebbels,
an intense, clumsy story about love and patriotism.
It wasn't very good, but a person wrote it,
not a comic-book villain.
People are capable of everything.
We can talk inhuman atrocities
till we're blue in the face,
these atrocities were committed by humans.
Anything else is not just a lie,
it's a Nazi lie.
The Nazis claimed the Jews weren't human.
Everyone was human,
we should stop writing fairy-tales
in history books.
The truth is much more dangerous.
What comic-book villains do
ends when Spiderman kills them.
What people do,
people can do again.



Nobody ever smoked this except a sweet little old lady
who never went faster than 35 micrograms an hour.
Sure, the resin needs changing, it needs loving care
and gives it too.
Take a toke around the block.
And you know what this would cost you
if you got it from one of those used up dealers
with flashy second-hand raps for ragweed;
but this stuff
is straight from the Amazon in China
right off the Grand Canyon
where Guatemala grows thickest in the dark of the moon
and Tarzan takes it every Thursday.
Now would I lie to you?


Julia Vinograd and her bubbles have observed and chronicled the Berkeley street scene since the late sixties.  Her keen, wry wit turns to street riots, arrests, drug overdoses, drunks, street singers, jugglers, panhandlers, conmen, and all people tottering at the edge of the conventional.    Her passion for truth and the underdog are the life blood that course through each poem in all of her 42 books.

I spent the summer of 1985 living in Berkeley and fell in love with Julia Vinograd and the bubbles that she blows into the air as she limps up Telegraph Avenue arrayed in her black dress and knit hat with the pin on it that proclaims: Proud To Be Weird.  She has rings on every finger and each one is an eye beholding the wide world around her.  She reminds me of a tribeless gypsy searching for the truth in the common events that make up days: an ice cream cone falling into a child's lap, a dog's midnight howl, the squeal of a drunken saxophone.

As Bukowski is to Los Angeles, Julia Vinograd is to Berkeley.  I am proud to be allowed to include some of her work on this website. 

Many of her books remain in print and she also has recently produced one of the finest spoken word tapes I have ever heard: Eye of the Hand.  Order directly from the poet:

Julia Vinograd
1630 University Ave #34
Berkeley, CA 94703

Her books are all five dollars and the tape is ten. 

The above poems are copyright 1996 Julia Vinograd.  I thank her for allowing me to use them on Lies People Tell.

Poems by Catfish McDaris
adult supervision recommended


Robert Cobb

Linda Lerner

Holly Day

Mark Phillips

Christine Tyndall

More Poems

Poems by High School Students

s h o r t s t o r i e s



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